Sporting Heroes: Sidney Crosby is icon at 26 but best is yet to come


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The Independent Online

Ice hockey is a sport that has seen a few legends throughout its history. Orr, Hull, Howe and Gretzky immediately come to mind. You can now add Sidney Crosby’s name to the list.

Crosby might be just 26 but he has already captained a Stanley Cup-winning team in Pittsburgh Penguins and two Canadian Olympic gold medal-winning sides. He was 21 when he led the Penguins to cup glory, making him the youngest ever Stanley Cup-winning captain. And he was the youngest player to receive the Art Ross Trophy (for most NHL points) and the youngest player to be voted on to a First All Star team.

In Canada, ice hockey is not just a sport, it is more like a religion. Crosby started skating at the age of three and used to practise shooting pucks into the tumble dryer in his parents’ basement. At seven he gave his first TV interview.

In 2004, a proposed new league, the WHA, held a draft in which Crosby was the first player selected at 17 years old. He turned down a three-year offer worth more than $7.5m in favour of holding out for the NHL. The WHA subsequently folded.

By this time Crosby had been dubbed the “Next One”, in homage to Gretzky who was the “Great One” . Gretzky himself once stated that only Crosby could break his records. The 2005 NHL draft was being referred to as the “Sidney Sweepstake”, such was the appreciation for his talent.

At the Penguins, Crosby (below) moved in with the owner, Canadian legend Mario Lemieux, who took him under his wing. He has sustained setbacks, missing over a season and a half due to concussion and other injuries. But few will ever forget his overtime winning goal in the 2010 Olympic final against the US.

Already a legend, but the best could be yet to come.