EDMONTON – Sid the Kid touched down for the first time Tuesday in the home of Canada’s last NHL Stanley Cup dynasty, saying he would like to have played in Wayne Gretzky’s day, when goalies wore skinny pads and games ended 9-8.
“A lot of us watch those classic games and you see the equipment on the goalies and it’s hard not to cringe sometimes,” Sidney Crosby told a news conference.
“Sometimes you wish you were shooting on guys with little bit smaller equipment.
“But that’s just the way it is,” he said referring to the modern day trap hockey and goalies as broad as king-size mattresses.
“That’s hockey for us.”
Crosby plays his first game in Edmonton Wednesday when his Pittsburgh Penguins play the Oilers at Rexall Place (9:30 p.m. ET).
It’s part of the inaugural Western Canadian tour for the kid from Cole Harbour, N.S., even though he has already played more than 180 games in the NHL.
The Pens play in Calgary Thursday, Vancouver Saturday, and wrap up their longest road trip of the season in Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Due to the unbalanced NHL schedule, it is the first time Crosby has played as a pro out west, though he once played in a minor hockey tournament in Calgary five years ago.
The schedule will change starting next year so each team will play all the others at least once, whether home or on the road.
The 20-year-old Crosby was born during the Oilers’ Stanley Cup heyday of the mid-1980s, but said he watched the team’s 2006 Stanley Cup run and is looking forward to the atmosphere in the rink.
“It’s a great hockey environment and for any guy to come to Canada, especially here, to play in that kind of atmosphere – those are always fun games.”
He’s guaranteed a big crowd.
The games are sellouts in all three Canadian rinks. Some fans are trying to cash in by selling game tickets online (anywhere from $300 to $500 for a pair of tickets on the craigslist.org website)
This is also the first trip out west as NHLers for Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, forwards Jordan Staal, Evgeni Malkin and defenceman Ryan Whitney.
Penguins Erik Christensen and Darryl Sydor know the terrain as they grew up in Edmonton.
They will face a 13-14-1 Oilers team riding a season-high three-game winning streak. Like the Penguins, the Oilers are also gunning to get back in the playoff hunt.
Crosby, the league’s scoring champion last season with 120 points, is off to a good start this year with 14 goals and 23 assists through 26 games.
He’s tied for second in overall scoring behind Vincent Lecavalier of Tampa Bay heading into action Tuesday.
He has missed the scoresheet in only two games and says his game has been aided by the acquisition of ex-Oiler tough guy Georges Laraque.
“It’s a little calmer out there. He’s got that presence,” says Crosby.
The 12-12-2 Pens, coming off a 3-1 win over Phoenix Monday, have been struggling on offence this season except for Crosby, Malkin and defenceman Sergei Gonchar, who has been sidelined recently with a strained groin.
They hope to at least repeat the success of last season, when they made the playoffs for the first time in six years.