CHICAGO — It’s hard to believe ‘The Kid’ is about to embark on his 15th NHL season.
Three Stanley Cups, two Art Ross Trophies, two Hart Trophies, two Rocket Richard Trophies, two Conn Smythes and two Olympic Golds later, the 32-year-old is the most decorated NHLer of his time. If he stays healthy, Crosby is on track to finally reach 1,000 games played in the league, something that would have already happened if not for the injuries and multiple concussions sustained in his career.
There have been many supremely skilled players through the years who have fallen short of the 1,000-game milestone. In the 100-plus years of NHL history only 337 players have got there — and that number is still 767 short of Gordie Howe’s all-time record.
With just 57 more to go, Crosby was asked by 31 Thoughts: The Podcast at the NHL/NHLPA player media tour if reaching 1,000 means something to him given everything else he’s accomplished in his career. Crosby acknowledged “it’s pretty cool.”
“I don’t think it means any more because I went through different stuff or went through injury and that kind of thing,” Crosby told Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman. “Growing up as a kid you want to play in the NHL, you don’t know if it’s going to happen, you don’t know if it’s going to be one game. There’s a lot of things that go through your mind. Your goal and your dream is just to play in the NHL.
“I got to witness and be a part of Matt Cullen’s 1,500th and afterwards we’re sitting around like, are you kidding me? 1,500 games? Like how did you do it? What is the secret?”
Crosby still has six years left on his contract with the Penguins and was again terrific in 2018-19, reaching 100 points for the first time in five years. He was a Hart Trophy finalist for the fifth time in five seasons and is still right alongside Connor McDavid in any world’s best hockey player debate. So, health permitting, there is still a lot of greatness ahead of No. 87.
Fans of a certain age will clearly remember Crosby’s draft, his first NHL game and season in the league when he and Alex Ovechkin stormed in with 100-plus point seasons. But although individually his rookie season was a spectacular success, the Penguins missed the playoffs and fell well short of expectations.
Crosby reminisced on his first few years in the league and, looking back, said there’s a lot he’s learned from over the years. If there’s one thing he laughs at most in terms of how he was as an NHL rookie compared to how he is today, it’s his relationship with the referees.
“I was so bad. I look back and I feel so bad,” Crosby said. “I think I had two 10-minute misconducts that year. Not to say I don’t get fired up now because I’m pretty emotional and I get fired up, but it was just when I look back and I put myself in that headspace, the amount of pressure and the expectation felt that year, not just me personally — the team too.
“We were supposed to win the Stanley Cup. We were a favourite going into that season, we had all these big signings. And we lost our first nine games. That was really hard for me. Up to that point I’d been on winning teams growing up and we kind of did what we were supposed to do and that was the first time I really kind of felt that.
“With the refs and stuff I think that frustration kind of showed. I look back on that and think…it was immature and it was just the way it happened, but it’s something I learned from.
“If I could apologize to every ref back then I would definitely do that.”
Listen to the full interview in an upcoming episode of 31 Thoughts: The Podcast