Crosby celebrates birthday Stanley Cup style
COLE HARBOUR, Nova Scotia — You've never seen a birthday party quite like this.
Tens of thousands of fans decked out in black and gold lined the sunny streets of Cole Harbour and filled the parking lot of the local arena Friday afternoon to welcome back their guest of honor, singing "happy birthday to Sidney" as hometown hero and Penguins star Sidney Crosby rode by in an antique fire truck, one hand resting on the best present he could ask for, the other waving to his adoring fans.
"There he is, I see him!" 11-year-old Alexander Rhoddy of Stewiacke, Nova Scotia, said in excitement, clamoring up on a metal barrier to get a better view of the Stanley Cup champion.
As the parade came to an end and a video montage of some of Crosby's greatest moments on ice flashed across two giant screens, the crowd's cheers grew more intense, reaching an almost-deafening level as he climbed on the stage, kissed his sparkling 22nd birthday present and hoisted it high above his head, just as he did June 12 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
"We've got a few people that are Cup crazy here, it looks like," he noted with a chuckle, as he looked out through his sunglasses at the throng of people peering up at him, many holding up homemade signs or birthday cards of sorts.
"Thank you very much," he said. "I've ran through this in my mind so many times and as much ... support as I've gotten over the last few years here — it's been incredible — but this says it all right here."
Crosby went on to acknowledge all the people in the community "who have had such a positive influence on me," from his minor-league hockey coaches to his school teachers, telling them they've "allowed me to get to this point." He thanked his family, including his two grandmothers who rode into the celebration on a corvette, and his teammate Maxime Talbot, "the hero," who made a surprise showing in the parade carrying the Prince of Wales Trophy.
"I love Cole Harbour!" said Talbot, who scored both Game 7 goals told the crowd. "Thank you guys!"
Crosby also had a special message for all the starry-eyed youngsters who came to see him.
"I know there (are) a lot young kids here that are here watching, they're seeing the Stanley Cup up close, and I'm sure a lot of you dream of winning it yourself, and either you go through it when you're playing road hockey or when you're on the rink, and I just want to let you know I did the same thing."
"The proof is right here that you can do it," Crosby said. "So go for it!"
He ended by saying he planned "to soak up" every moment and encouraged everyone else to do the same. "Enjoy every second of it."
The Penguin captain's proud parents watched from a VIP tent as politicians praised their son, including Mayor Peter Kelly, who proclaimed Aug. 7, 2009 to be Sidney Crosby Day across Halifax Regional Municipality, which includes the community of Cole Harbour.
"How often do you get to stand beside a person who is the very best in the world at what he does?" Canadian Member of Parliament Mike Savage said. "But you can honestly say, as good an athlete as he is, he's an even better person."
Shortly after the ceremony and parade, which included a marching band, bagpipers and Canadian Mounties dressed in full regalia, his mother, Trina Crosby, admitted "I don't think there (are) any words to describe this."
His father, Troy, called it "a proud moment for the family," adding his son was thrilled to share his Stanley Cup victory with Cole Harbour.
Sidney Crosby Day also included fun activities for the whole family, from the chance to shoot pucks at old dryers — just like Sid did back in the day — to a free evening concert. Fans also had the chance to fire questions at Crosby during a "hot stove" session, and 87 lucky raffle winners got their picture taken with Crosby and the Cup. He even took time out to man the nets in a game of ball hockey with his buddies from Cole Harbour.
Luke Warner and Ryan Wilson, both 16, covered their chests and faces in Penguins-colored paint and traveled to Cole Harbour from other Nova Scotia communities just to get a glimpse of the one Wilson called "the best player in the world."
"He's the youngest captain to ever bring home the Cup, and he's from Nova Scotia," Warner added. "You gotta represent."
Christine Wilson and her family of four were there representing both Nova Scotia and Pennsylvania. She was born-and-raised in Pittsburgh but later moved to her husband's home province. She has her loved ones well trained to "bleed black and gold."
"Mario Lemieux was my Sidney Crosby when I was growing up," she said, noting that Stanley Cup celebrations in Halifax Regional Municipality this year were probably as extravagant as they were in her hometown
Daughter, Edie Wilson, 9, said she loves the Penguins "because mom likes Pittsburgh, and because Pittsburgh is obviously the best team in hockey ever." She said Crosby "played really well in the Stanley Cup finals," adding she's glad "he was able to bring the Cup back here on his birthday."
"This is the best birthday party we've ever been to!" mom added.
While talking with reporters later, Crosby was inclined to agree, calling his day "bigger and better than I ever could have dreamed."
How Penguins captian Sidney Crosby spent his 22nd birthday in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia:
9 a.m: Sid and the Stanley Cup make a spectacular entrance by flying in on a Sea King Helicopter and landing on HMCS Preserver at the Halifax dockyard. The ceremony includes a cake-cutting with members of the Canadian military.
Mid-morning: Sid shares the Cup with kids staying at the IWK Health Center, the children's hospital in Halifax.
2:30 p.m. : He hops on an antique fire truck, his float for the parade, that traveled about two miles and took an hour-and-a-half to complete.
4 p.m.: Crosby shows off the sparkling Cup to his family and friends in Cole Harbour, who traveled from across the province and the country to catch a glimpse.
Early evening: Eighty-seven raffle winners and a group of young "Timbit" hockey players playing in a three-on-three ball tournament pose with Sidney and the Stanley Cup for photos; Crosby straps on some goalie pads for his own game of ball hockey in a nearby tennis court with the same buddies he played with growing up.
7:45 p.m.: He speaks with reporters.
After 8 p.m.: Sidney steps outside to enjoy the free concert at Cole Harbour Place, and his fans sing happy birthday to him one last time.
Late night: Crosby is expected to spend time with close family and friends.
Note: Organizers estimate anywhere between 50,000 and 65,000 fans showed up at Cole Harbour Place and lined the parade route to celebrate Sidney Crosby Day.