When Audible.ca was looking for a narrator for its new audio documentary on Sidney Crosby, there was a natural choice in actor Joe Manganiello. Known for his work in True Blood, Magic Mike and Zack Snyder's Justice League, Manganiello is a Pittsburgh native and a big-time Penguins fan. In fact, the first person he texted about the gig was Crosby himself.
"He and I are very friendly and I have thanked him up and down on behalf of Pittsburgh for the way he handles himself and the example he has set," Manganiello said. "He's a great ambassador for the city and we don't take those things lightly in Pittsburgh."
Sidney Crosby: The Rookie Year is a Canadian Audible original that delves deep into Crosby's origin story while using his initial NHL season as its framework. The voices gathered for the documentary are legion, from Crosby and his parents to agent Pat Brisson, the legendary Mario Lemieux and other teammates such as Mark Recchi and Ryan Whitney. And while the story focuses on that 2005-06 campaign, sojourns into Crosby's past give us wonderful clips of the superstar as a kid, too. While Manganiello is well-versed in everything Crosby has done since No. 87 got to Pittsburgh, it was the early years that fascinated him on this project.
"The things that were really surprising to me were about Sid growing up as a kid," he said. "I knew he was a generational talent and the one everyone wanted as the No. 1 pick. But I really didn't fully grasp how much pressure was put on him from the time he was young, how good he was and what a big deal he was in Canada. I'm always fascinated by people who can hold themselves to a higher standard while being heaped upon with money, fame, the trappings of success, and keep their head on straight. That's a really difficult task, so it grew my respect for him. He came through and exceeded expectations."
Indeed, even for those who have followed Crosby since he was literally Sid the Kid, there are some choice anecdotes in the show. Brisson, for example, recalls visiting Crosby in Minnesota when the gifted youngster was playing for Shattuck-St. Mary's, the prep school that allowed him to develop outside the searing Canadian spotlight before he got to Rimouski in the QMJHL. Brisson recalls how Crosby was excited to show off his collection of hockey cards, unintentionally hammering home just how young he still was, despite all the hype.
And Oceanic fans can thank Crosby's mom, Trina, for selling him on Rimouski after a visit convinced the family that the town and franchise would be the perfect place for their son to develop after Shattuck.
For the city of Pittsburgh however, Crosby was a godsend. The Penguins of course won him in a lottery that came after a lockout and while the team would end up growing into a multiple Stanley Cup champion under his captaincy, it's important to remember how grave the situation was before he came to town.
"Well, you're talking about a team on the verge of bankruptcy and maybe leaving the city," Manganiello recalled. "A bit of emotional detachment starts to happen. And it's not like it had been that long since they had won - if you look at some of the teams in Canada with their droughts and their fandom. But to understand what it meant to get Sid, especially with Lemieux stepping up to the plate and taking control of the team, you gotta believe in a Hockey God. There are no hockey atheists in Pittsburgh."
As for this year's iteration of the team, Manganiello remains positive. And why not? The Penguins currently sit second in the Metropolitan Division, while Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang continue to deliver as cornerstone vets. Tristan Jarry is back in form in net and they've got a great coach in Mike Sullivan.
"I'm very positive (right now)," Manganiello said. "And I want to give Sid a shout-out for getting his 500th goal. It's always nice to get those milestones out of the way so he can concentrate on winning another Cup."