He's less than two weeks away from his 23rd birthday, but Sidney Crosby has already come of age as one of sport's most passionate leaders.
Named the Pittsburgh Penguins' team captain on May 31, 2007, making him (at 19 years, 9 months, and 24 days) the youngest team captain in NHL history, Crosby, one of the most dynamic and decorated players in the game, continues to build his reputation as a take charge sort.
Recognition for it came in the form of the 2010 Mark Messier Leadership Award, an honour that highlights an individual as a superior leader within their sport, and as a contributing member of society.
It's an award tailor-made for Crosby, who finished second in NHL scoring in 2009-10 with 109 points (51 goals, 58 assists). It's also one that means a great deal to the Nova Scotia native.
“I've met him a number of times previously,” said Crosby, of Mark Messier, who is widely noted as one of sport's most revered leaders. “I said it tonight, but he's the guy you think of when you think of leadership and, on and off the ice, the type of person that he is.
“It's a real honour for him to select me for that award. I really appreciated it. That's an area you're never really going to stop learning, but being a young captain, that's encouraging.”
Crosby's 51 tallies were a new career high and knotted him with Steven Stamkos for the league lead in goals, earning him his first Rocket Richard Trophy.
Impressive, to say the least, but it's certainly not out of the ordinary for the first overall selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
Selected by the Penguins out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) first after earning back-to-back CHL Player of the Year awards and leading his club to a berth in the 2005 Memorial Cup during his two-year major junior career with the Rimouski Océanic, Crosby was one of the most highly regarded draft picks in hockey history.
In his rookie NHL campaign, Crosby finished sixth overall in scoring with 102 points. In his second season, he led the league with 120 points and won the Art Ross Trophy, becoming the youngest player and the only teenager to win a scoring title in any major North American sports league.
That same season, Crosby was the recipient of the Hart Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player as determined by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, and the Lester B. Pearson Award (now named the Ted Lindsay Award) as the most valuable player as chosen by the players themselves. In doing so, he became just the seventh player in NHL history to have earned all three awards.
After falling to the Detroit Red Wings in the 2008 Stanley Cups, Crosby won his first Stanley Cup in 2009, becoming the youngest captain in NHL history to hoist the trophy.
He's eager to experience the feeling again, even more so after Pittsburgh was ousted from the 2009-10 playoffs after losing to the Montreal Canadiens in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“Just thinking about it when we've had this time off, I don't remember having a full summer to get ready for a season,” explained Crosby, who scored the gold medal-winning overtime goal against the U.S. at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. “That's exciting. You can gain a lot over of the course of a summer. For our team, we had two previously long seasons before that, and another one this year with condensed schedules. So I'm excited to see our team with some rest and hungry.”
An even more determined Crosby is certainly not what the opposition is looking forward to.
But his teammates definitely are.
“He wants to win and that's obvious every game,” said Kris Letang, ofthe 2010 Ted Lindsay Award finalist. “He wants the team to succeed and he has a desire and ability to go out on the ice and make special things happen.”
The last word goes to Crosby.
“I tried to shoot the puck more,” he said, of the 2009-10 season. “I think just trying to be less predictable. That's really always the biggest challenge is trying to keep guys guessing, and trying to develop other parts of your game that may not show point-wise, but eventually will help you offensively create things. So you need some luck, too. I think anybody will tell you that you need some balances, and I've gotten some of those balances and worked hard for them.”
His numbers show, beyond a doubt, that it's paid off well for No. 87.