EDMONTON – Sidney Crosby skated Wednesday for the first time under the banners of Canada’s last Stanley Cup dynasty, the Edmonton Oilers.
But the kid dubbed “The Next One” dismissed suggestions from reporters that his young, talented Pittsburgh Penguins are undoubtedly the “Next Ones.” “We have a lot more to prove. (They had) four cups in a row or whatever it was,” said Crosby, who is playing this week for the first time in rinks in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
“By the same token, you can see similarities with a young group growing together and hopefully winning.
“I can see the comparisons. It’s obvious, but it’s not something we talk about too much. I think we’re just enjoying our time.”
With talented youngsters such as Evgeni Malkin, Ryan Whitney and Jordan Staal, the Penguins have been labelled the team with the best shot at winning multiple Stanley Cups in the age of salary caps.
“They have some of those same elements, maybe not to the depth that the Oilers had,” said Oilers coach Craig MacTavish.
“(But) you feel ultimately a Crosby-led team will at some point win the Stanley Cup.”
The 20-year-old Penguins captain created a stir at Rexall Place during the morning skate prior to the evening game against the Oilers.
About 200 fans who came to watch the Penguins practise bumped up against 50 reporters and camera staff from across Western Canada.
Adding to the confusion were the St. Louis Blues, who play the Oilers Friday night, but arrived during the Penguins’ practice hoping to squeeze in a skate of their own.
They ended up packing their gear beside the Zamboni and picking their way through throngs to reach the ice as the Crosby show and 10 per cent of the entire NHL met in one hallway at the same time.
It was Crosby’s first time in the Alberta capital.
Despite having played more than 180 games in the NHL, Crosby has never played in Western Canada.
The Penguins play the Flames Thursday night and in Vancouver Saturday.
Crosby, the league’s scoring champion last season with 120 points, is just off the NHL goal-scoring lead with 14 goals and 23 assists through 26 games this year.
“He never gives up on pucks. He never gives up on a play and a lot of times that results in a highlight reel goal. You think the play’s dead and you have him contained and he does a spinarama or he jumps around you,” said Oiler centre Shawn Horcoff.
“What’s understated is his strength down low,” added Oiler defenceman Steve Staios of the five-foot-11 inch, 200-pound Crosby.
“You’ve got to play him like a big man. You can’t go lunging at him and trying to knock him off the puck.”
Former Oiler Georges Laraque, now Crosby’s teammate, says Crosby’s work ethic sets him apart.
“Every time he plays, even practice, every time he steps on the ice, he brings energy. He wants to win and he wants to score every time.
“That energy goes right through every guy on this team.”
That energy and work ethic has been transferred to the Penguins dressing room, even on the road.
Their room at Rexall Place was festooned Wednesday in Penguin logos, black and gold signs and inspirational sayings.
There were Penguin logos on doors, walls, posts, pillars, dressing stalls and garbage cans. There were Penguin-logo rugs in front of each player’s dressing area and a large circular Penguin carpet in the centre.
Taped to posts and walls were sayings like: “Good is the enemy of great” and “Details of Discipline. Discipline of Details.”
On the equipment room door was hung one of the famed yellow Pittsburgh Steelers talisman “Terrible Towels.”
MacTavish said stopping Crosby can’t be done single-handedly.
“Do it collectively,” he said.
“You know he’s going to turn the corner and get it to the net a couple of times.
“You’ve got to be ready to soften off your own coverage to help out.”