Even at 36, Sidney Crosby remains the gold standard for NHL players

And in his 19th season, Crosby is still piling up the numbers and climbing the all-time scoring list, where he’s two points back of Joe Thornton for 12th in 492 fewer games.

Even at 36, Sidney Crosby remains the gold standard for NHL players

In a league where young, skilful players like Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Connor Bedard are dazzling fans and grabbing headlines, 36-year-old Sidney Crosby is still the gold standard for many NHLers.

“Consistent player, great player, and somebody that a lot of guys still look up to," said Montreal Canadiens centre Sean Monahan.

"Sid the Kid" may not be the scoring leader he was as a fresh-faced phenom, but no active players have built up a list of accolades that equals his two playoff MVPs, three Stanley Cups and two Olympic gold medals.

"Obviously you’ve got guys like Auston (Matthews), Connor (McDavid), (Nikita) Kucherov, (David) Pastrnak, and there’s a long list of unbelievable players," Maple Leafs forward Max Domi told reporters in Toronto. “But no one’s won as much as he has, right?”

And in his 19th season, Crosby is still piling up the numbers and climbing the all-time scoring list, where he’s two points back of Joe Thornton for 12th in 492 fewer games.

Crosby’s 35 points through 32 outings put him on pace for just under 90 points over a full campaign, something only eight players in league history have done at age 36 or older.

The product of Cole Harbour, N.S., is tied for fifth in the league with 19 goals. Twelve of those came at 5-on-5, tied for third in the NHL.

That’s all while playing a complete game at both ends of the ice and winning faceoffs at a 60.5 per cent clip.

So what’s his secret for staying so good for so long?

"I understand how hard you have to work to play at this level,” Crosby said after a three-point performance in Montreal on Dec. 13. “Each and every year, I mean, the guys that are coming in are so skilled and so fast. It's not easy, so a lot of work goes into it."

Interim Ottawa Senators head coach Jacques Martin, who coached Crosby as a Penguins assistant from 2013 to 2020, credits Crosby’s unwavering desire to improve.

“He’s an athlete that strives on getting better, even at his age. Whether it’s in-season, off-season,” said Martin. “What’s remarkable about him is how he takes care of his body.”

Arizona Coyotes forward Jason Zucker, Crosby’s teammate in Pittsburgh for four seasons, says the Penguins captain stays effective by playing a simple game. 

“He's not a super fancy guy with toe drags and all these crazy plays,” Zucker said.

While some players ply their trade with sweet dekes and lacrosse-style goals, Crosby beats opponents by wearing them down and making smart plays, especially around the net.

Kaiden Guhle witnessed that firsthand when Crosby chased the Canadiens defenceman down, forced a turnover and set up a teammate for a scoring chance before converting a goal himself with a cheeky tip-in at the side of the net.

“Even though he’s getting older it seems like he’s almost getting better,” said Guhle.

Despite Crosby’s individual success, the Penguins have a 15-13-4 record and are five points behind the playoff cutline entering Wednesday night's game against the New York Islanders.

But without him, Pittsburgh could be looking at a much steeper climb into a post-season spot.

"Every time we win I think he has an impact on the result, to be honest with you,” said Kris Letang, Crosby’s teammate since 2006-07. “We see the goals and the assists, the spectacular plays, but he does so many little things that people don't see. 

“I think every night he's the one who makes the difference."

As great as Crosby is on the ice, those who’ve spent time around him feel his actions are even greater off it.

Just this week, Penguins team reporter Michelle Crechiolo posted a story about how Crosby showed support to hockey agent Bayne Pettinger after he came out as gay by sending him a framed Pride-themed jersey.

“He’s a special human being,” Martin said. “You’ve got to respect that he’s still one of the top players in the game, but more importantly he’s an outstanding human being."


The Winnipeg Jets traded centre Pierre-Luc Dubois for a package of players and a draft pick last off-season, but they may have received the best skater in the deal after all.

Gabriel Vilardi, a former Kings first-round pick, is one of the hottest players in the league with 12 points in his last five games before the holiday break.

The six-foot-three, 24-year-old forward has 15 points in 14 games this season.

Dubois, who signed an eight-year, US$68-million deal with Los Angeles, has just 13 points this season through 30 games.


With a 7-4 win over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, the Vancouver Canucks became the first Canadian team since Ottawa in 2005 to stand alone atop the NHL standings at Christmas.

The Canucks had 49 points entering play Wednesday night, two ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights and New York Rangers.

— With files from Lisa Wallace in Ottawa.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 27, 2023.

Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press