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Top Shelf: Crosby the consummate champion

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The difference between Sidney Crosby’s approach to life and that of the vast majority of people who populate Earth can be summed up in two words: French class.

The story of Crosby learning French as a junior player with the Rimouski Oceanic is becoming a bit like Chris Drury and his Little League World Series heroics from once upon a time. But in the off chance you haven’t heard it, here are the short strokes: English-speaking hockey phenom lands in French-speaking community and decides he must take it upon himself to learn the language of those around him, rather than expect them to accommodate his needs.

In a relatively short period of time, Crosby learned French to the extent that when he was hauling in all those awards at league banquets, he was able to make acceptance speeches in Canada’s second language.

I assure you, this type of off-ice effort and awareness is not the rule for young teenagers operating in a big fish, small pond scenario as major junior players in small Canadian cities. To my recollection, most of the guys who looked forward to French class when I was 15 were the ones who saw it as an opportunity to torment a poor educator being thrown to the wolves, trying to teach kids something they thought they had as much use for as today’s teens have for a VCR.

But not Sid.

When we talked playoff scenarios on the eve of this post-season, a lot of theories got thrown around the THN office. When it came to Crosby and the defending champs, there was the notion they may have lost that starving-dog mentality, having been satiated by sipping champagne last year.

Then my colleague, Ryan Kennedy, pointed out the obvious; Crosby is the kind of person who wants to win everything, always.

I instantly agreed. Simply put, satisfaction is not an emotion that exists in Crosby’s body beyond the moments immediately following a gold medal-winning goal or lifting the Stanley Cup.

That’s why the Ottawa Senators are catching a Crosby who looks as determined as ever to eviscerate anything on his path to glory; a guy who knows the word for laurels in two languages, but would never think of resting on either.

This Cole Harbour hero could retire before his 23rd birthday this August having hit every major goal on the checklist of a superstar hockey player. But that’s just it; Crosby is clearly working with an internal agenda that recalibrates to constantly seek out new challenges once other lofty aspirations have been obtained.

Got an MVP, league scoring title, status as the NHL’s youngest Cup-winning captain and an overtime-winner in an Olympic gold medal game on home ice in the bank? Guess it’s time to become a 50-goal scorer, who gets time on the penalty-kill and has improved on faceoffs to the point he led his team this season by winning 55.9 percent of his draws.

More people are making Tiger Woods jokes than legit comparisons these days, but to me, Woods’ obsession with bettering Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major tournament victories is the only mission that seems comparable to what I see on Crosby’s face every time he’s on the ice for a playoff game.

With Wayne Gretzky’s prominent scoring records out of reach until hockey goes to soccer-sized nets and pea-sized pucks, maybe Crosby has adjusted expectations to things like becoming the first captain to raise back-to-back Cups since Steve Yzerman in 1998 – before setting to work on besting Gretzky and Mario Lemieux by ripping off three in a row.

Having grown up a fan of the Montreal Canadiens, Crosby is probably aware Patrick Roy’s three Conn Smythe Trophies are the most in league history – for now.

I thought Alex Ovechkin would relish the chance to sully a Canadian Olympic party on home soil, but now that it hasn’t happened, I’m already wondering how much Crosby would love to steal the Sochi thunder from Ovie in four years.

And I know Latin is a dead language and all, but it’s still a pretty interesting thing to study, right?

Even with his fiery eyes revealing so much about his approach, who’s to say what ‘The Kid’ has in mind for his next trick. All we know for sure is that regardless of how glistening the resume gets, it won’t for one second affect the appetite.

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to His blog appears Thursday and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesday.

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