Kovacevic: Crosby, Canada work in progress
By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 10:26 p.m.
WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Ever stepped into minus-27 degrees?
If not, here's a tip: Don't.
No matter how well you think you're clothed, it doesn't take a minute before your skin tingles, your fingers clench, your eyeballs feel like they're calcifying and ... OK, I'll come clean: That pretty much sums up my 3.5-block walk from the hotel to a coffeeshop late Thursday afternoon.
The cab ride back wasn't nearly as bad.
It's a cold place, Winnipeg. Coldest big city in the world, actually, with a population of about 700,000 hardy souls and an average winter temp that's a mathematical match for all the tourism revenue it reels in.
And yet, it's also one of the warmest places.
“These are some of the friendliest people you'll find anywhere,” Tanner Glass, the Penguins' newest winger, was saying. He should know. He was raised in neighboring Saskatchewan and spent last season with the Jets. “They're tremendous hockey fans, too.”
Sounds like an ideal mix for Sidney Crosby's debut in this city Friday night, right?
A packed house of good-hearted, passionate Canadian hockey fans welcoming a favorite son on home soil?
It does to me, anyway, but ...
Glass: “Honestly, I have no clue how they'll be with Sid.”
Brandy Ellerbrock, a Jets season-ticket holder: “We're all excited to finally see him, but I'm not sure if he'll get the typical Winnipeg boos for the other team's best player or cheers.”
Gary Lawless, veteran columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press: “They'll cheer him early, then get on him.”
No one seems to have a firm feel for it.
And maybe that's telling in and or itself.
We're almost three years to the month since Crosby's crowning achievement as a Canadian, the golden overtime goal to beat the United States at the Vancouver Olympics. It was celebrated unlike any event I've ever covered, inside and outside that throbbing building.
And Crosby, the pride of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was king of Canada.
For about a week.
Before long, he was booed in Ottawa, taunted in Toronto and, really, he still hasn't been elevated anywhere near the status once enjoyed by Wayne Gretzky or, later, Mario Lemieux.
Much of it, I'll tell you, is the Canadian sports media's love affair with Gretzky that lingers still. No one can ever touch the Great One in their eyes.
Not even Lemieux. Mario had three strikes: He was a French speaker, wasn't nearly as fond of cameras, and his ascent past Gretzky didn't sit well with those who'd already done the anointing.
Still, Lemieux was mostly treated with respect in his home country, especially after his own national triumphs in the Canada Cup and Olympics.
With Crosby ... it's just not the same.
He's the consensus best player in the game, as those two were. But it's far more difficult to detect that same glow out of Canada. Not in the press, not in endorsements and not in crowd adulation, the area that's easiest to quantify.
There's a definite like there, but love feels like it's still on the horizon, at best.
One explanation Lawless offers is that “Gretzky did all his winning for a Canadian team. Crosby has helped keep the Cup out of Canada.” He means Gretzky's famed Oilers.
Hard to argue that.
“Also, Sid's dominance is more subtle. He's never been far and away the best, having Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin to contend with. When 99 was the best, it wasn't close. Same for 66 when he took over the stage. But that being said, I think Sid's about to enter a new stage of his career and take his rightful place in Canadian hockey royalty.”
Be sure that would matter to at least one guy.
I asked Crosby, with the Penguins' trip taking them here and on to Ottawa, if he finds it important to be embraced by Canada.
“Yeah,” he answered. “I'm Canadian. A proud Canadian. And I definitely appreciate, if I hear cheers on the road or things like that, it's nice.”
Maybe he will Friday at the MTS Centre, loudest building in the league. It should be fascinating to find out.
Might be fun, too. The fans here make a game of teasing opponents' stars. Sometimes they boo with each touch. Other times, they'll chant that a comparable player is better. When the Hurricanes' Eric Staal visited, they'd chant, “ Jor-dan's bet-ter !” Did that for Ovechkin, too, with a “ Cros-by's bet-ter !”
What if now it's Malkin being “ bet-ter ?”
“Hey, that's OK,” Crosby came back with a grin. “At least they'll be on our side.”
All politics is local, eh?
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kovacevic: Panic over Pirates? In April?
- Pens insider: Penalty killing a concern in Stanley Cup playoffs
- Undersized rookie Gibbons is blur on ice for Penguins
- Panthers pulling weight for new strength coach
- Patience pays off as starting pitcher Volquez gets 1st win for Pirates
- Penn State has hand in discovery of most Earth-like planet yet
- Body found on train tracks in West End
- Pirates should exploit free-swinging Brewers
- UPMC: As many as 27,000 employees affected in data breach
- Penguins’ Bylsma and Blue Jackets’ Richards know each other well
- Pirates notebook: Tabata OK’d to return to play