SI Vault
 
A COMING OF AGE
Michael Farber
June 18, 2009
EARLIER THAN GRETZKY OR LEMIEUX, CROSBY ETCHED HIS NAME ONTO THE NHL'S HOLY GRAIL
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
June 18, 2009

A Coming Of Age

EARLIER THAN GRETZKY OR LEMIEUX, CROSBY ETCHED HIS NAME ONTO THE NHL'S HOLY GRAIL

View CoverRead All Articles

REGULAR SEASON

         

ADJUSTED

PLAYER

GAMES

GOALS

ASSISTS

PTS

GPG

APG

PPG

Wayne GRETZKY, '79-80 to '82-83

319

269

440

709

0.84

1.38

2.22

Mario LEMIEUX, '84-85 to '87-88

292

215

301

516

0.74

1.03

1.77

Sidney CROSBY, '05-06 to '08-09

290

132

265

397

0.59

1.19

1.99

PLAYOFFS

         

ADJUSTED

PLAYER

GAMES

GOALS

ASSISTS

PTS

GPG

APG

PPG

Wayne GRETZKY, '79-80 to '82-83

33

26

48

74

0.79

1.45

2.24

Sidney CROSBY, '05-06 to '08-09

49

24

39

63

0.67

1.08

1.75

TWO DAYS BEFORE THE START OF THE 2009 STANLEY Cup finals—before the seven-game series against the Detroit Red Wings, before the media scrutiny that would be extraordinary even by his standards—Sidney Crosby sat at his stall in Mellon Arena in his sweat-soaked practice jersey, the wisps of his playoff beard actually making him look younger than his 21 years.

Do you know how many seasons it took Mario Lemieux to win a Stanley Cup? I asked.

Crosby shook his head.

Wayne Gretzky?

"No," Crosby said. "No idea."

The answer is seven and five, respectively. Maybe the subject really never has come up during the dinner conversation at Lemieux's mansion, where Crosby remains a happy tenant, or maybe Crosby hasn't bothered to thumb through an NHL record book or Google the question on a BlackBerry. But somehow his look-you-in-the-eye response strained credulity coming from a player in his fourth NHL season. If nothing else, it showed a surprising lack of curiosity for someone who always has been hyperconscious about his place in the continuum of the game.

Since I first saw Crosby, as a precocious 16-year-old with Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, it was clear that he had an innate understanding that his place in the hockey universe would be determined not by the number of Gatorade or Tim Hortons commercials he might wind up doing but by how many Stanley Cups he would end up winning. The Hall of Fame personal statistics seemed preordained, but he was going to be judged on the loftiest of scales.

"The Stanley Cup," Crosby said that day in the dressing room, "that's how you measure everything."

When he took the Cup from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on a memorable Friday night in Detroit and pressed it over his head for the world to appreciate, he was one month and 26 days short of his 22nd birthday. Gretzky was 23 and five months old when the Edmonton Oilers won their first Cup in 1984; Lemieux was a doddering 25 when the Penguins broke through in '91.

A personality before he was a fully formed person, Crosby had already won the trophy a million times in his head back home in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. Yet now that he has reached his boyhood goal, there is still something boyish about him. For example, his intensity still gurgles to the surface in ways that do not always flatter him. He still bleats at referees. That day at his locker, Crosby suggested he had been doing a better job of "channeling things. When your team is looking at you to lead, you have to make sure you show a sense of calm.... [But] I'm always going to get emotional."

Continue Story
1 2