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Penguins superstar Crosby admits he's still learning as he goes

| Sunday, Aug. 3, 2008

Sidney Crosby's offseason training gets serious Monday when he hits the ice. The only day he plans to take off between then and Sept. 17 -- the opening of Penguins' training camp -- is Thursday, his 21st birthday.

Yep, Sid's days as a Kid are numbered. He will celebrate with some junior hockey friends at a barbecue at his home in Nova Scotia.

"I can hold my own," Crosby said of his grill skills. "But one lesson I've learned is to keep it simple."

Rarely one to look back, Crosby did just that in an exclusive interview last week with Tribune-Review Penguins beat reporter Rob Rossi:

Q: What do you want for your 21st birthday?

A: I've thought about this because a lot of people have asked. Honestly, I couldn't tell you one thing that I want.

Q: What does turning 21 mean for you?

A: To be honest, it doesn't change anything on the ice. Off the ice, I'm able to drink. I look at it like this: At 19, I'm an adult in Canada. Now, I'm an adult all the way around.

Q: So what adult beverage does "Sid the Kid" drink?

A: Jack Daniels or Crown Royal.

Q: How did being under the legal drinking age in the United States limit your off-ice activities with teammates?

A: All the guys were great about that, actually. The good thing about being on a young team is that all the guys knew we had three guys under 21. Anything we did, we all could be a part of. I didn't miss out on anything.

Q: What will you do better at 21 than you did at 20?

A: Play a full season, for starters.

Q: Fair enough. How is the right ankle?

A: It needs to keep getting stronger, but it feels good.

Q: What did you learn during your first season as team captain?

A: That I'm still learning. I'd like to be a better leader. I really think it's a matter of recognizing things and using my experience from last year to recognize when something needs to be said or handled. There are certain moments when you have to be more of a leader. It's hard to explain, but last year helped make me more aware of that.

Q: How would you characterize your first three NHL seasons?

A: It's been a lot of fun. I've had a lot of experiences, that's for sure. We finished my first season 29th overall and worked our way up to the Cup final. It's been kind of up and down, but more ups than downs.

Q: What has been your greatest surprise?

A: How tough it was for us the first year. There was so much being said about how good we would be. We just struggled, and I didn't really expect that. I expected us to compete and have a chance. But a lot of things happened, and it was a big surprise because coming in, I expected to go far.

Q: What is your greatest disappointment?

A: Being so close and not winning the Cup is still hard to digest.

Q: Was it at all surprising to come within two victories of the Cup only two years after finishing 29th overall?

A: Well, we have a lot of guys that have been together since that first year, and we'd been growing. We earned that chance. It's great to see the attitude we have -- that we can be productive if we stick together. We've proved we can do well without a lot of experience.

Q: Of what you have accomplished before your 21st birthday, what stands out most?

A: Going to the final. We lost. It's not the best memory, but the whole journey -- at the time it was awful that we lost -- but it was fun and a great ride. That is something you want to go through as many times as you can.

Q: Of what you have yet to accomplish before your 21st birthday, what stands out most?

A: Not finishing the deal. It's hard not to think about it. Everybody I see brings it up. I'm reminded by it everywhere. You always see things on TV where guys had the Cup in their hometown. It's a constant reminder. The memory of losing is not something that just goes away.

Q: How much more motivated are you to win the Stanley Cup after losing in the final?

A: I thought I was motivated before. It's definitely more now. Being that close and not being able to do it -- it's just hard. The quicker you can get back and win it, the better.

Q: How did you react upon learning Marian Hossa would not re-sign with the Penguins?

A: I was pretty surprised. He told me that he really enjoyed it in Pittsburgh. He loved the team and the city. He never had one bad thing to say.

Q: Have you spoken with Hossa since he signed with Detroit?

A: We've played phone tag, but I haven't talked to him yet. I thought he liked it here. He was great to play with. It's too bad.

Q: What is your reaction when a former teammate that played alongside you in the Stanley Cup final says another team gives him a better chance to win the Stanley Cup next year?

A: To be honest, if you look at (the Red Wings), they haven't lost anyone. We came within two games, but they won, and they haven't lost one guy. Maybe on paper they have the best chance to win the Cup and, in his mind, that is what he thinks. If you ask anybody else, that's the way it looks. I'm not mad at him or anything like that. That's just the way it is.

Q: Do you derive any extra motivation from his comments?

A: We have enough motivation in the fact that we came that close and didn't win. Whether he said that or not doesn't matter.

Q: What is your assessment of the Penguins' offseason dealings to date?

A: It's been really good. It says a lot about the organization when it signs long-term deals with players that have been here. It sends a message to the rest of the team, too -- we have to do our part. That's important and encouraging.

Q: What should the expectations for the Penguins be this season?

A: Every team plays to win the Stanley Cup. That's what we want coming in, but there are a lot of things to be done before that can happen. Our goal should be to be better than we were last year. It's no given to reach the playoffs. You never look too far ahead. We have to keep that approach that we did last year.

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