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Gorman: Crosby has a defining moment

Kevin Gorman
| Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sidney Crosby already has led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup and Canada to an Olympic gold medal by age 22, realizing two boyhood dreams in a span of eight months.

What can he do for an encore?

Crosby didn't hesitate to answer.

"Win another one," he said.

That should come as a surprise to no one.

Crosby is one of the greatest competitors to ever play in Pittsburgh — which is really saying something in the City of Champions — but what separates Crosby is that he's also one of the sports world's biggest superstars.

That was evident when the player Sports Illustrated dubbed Destiny's Child scored the gold medal-winning goal for Canada to beat the United States in overtime Sunday in a thrilling end to the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

Crosby was asked Tuesday where his Olympic heroics rank with the game-winning goals by fellow Canadians Paul Henderson in the 1972 Summit Series and Mario Lemieux in the 1987 Canada Cup. The Penguins' captain would prefer to leave such speculation for others to decide.

Though his idol, Steve Yzerman, said Crosby has "a little bit of destiny to him," called it a "monumental moment in his career" and likened him to Wayne Gretzky, such comparisons also are unfair. Gretzky's scoring records are untouchable. To judge Crosby against them is to shortchange him.

Crosby should be defined by his championships, but not by his championships alone.

Crosby is defining himself on his own terms: as a leader, a fierce competitor and a clutch performer who relies not only on immense talent but an unparalleled work ethic and ability to live up to overwhelming expectations.

"You want to be a winner, for sure," Crosby said. "I think there's other things that define people, besides championships. I would hope that (there is) more than that. But, as a player, that's what you worked for, that's what you worked towards. You put everything you can into working hard so you can have those opportunities."

When Crosby came here as a teenager, he was asked to save hockey in Pittsburgh but also to serve as the face of the post-lockout NHL. He treats it as a badge of honor, not a burden, and handles himself with polish and poise. The Penguins recognized this early on, and made him the youngest captain in league history. He rewarded their faith by becoming the youngest captain to lead a team to a Stanley Cup championship last June.

He wasted no time making plans for an encore.

"I was with Sid maybe one week after we won the Cup, and right away he was like, 'OK, let's win another one,'" Penguins forward Max Talbot said. "I don't think he's satisfied or he's ever going to be like, 'Oh, we won. I can take it easy and stop playing.' He's a professional. He wants to be the best ever and he's going to do everything possible to help our team win."

When Crosby joined Team Canada, he was expected to lead it to Olympic gold. Anything less would have been a national embarrassment. When the Canadians lost to the U.S. in pool play, it began an emotional rollercoaster ride that Crosby compared to playing "four Game 7s in a row."

Yet, in the end, Crosby came through and added to his legend.

"Sid really cemented himself in Canadian hockey history," Penguins winger Bill Guerin said. "Nobody's ever going to forget that goal that he scored."

Not just in Canada.

Crosby's remaining critics will say that, Stanley Cup and Olympic gold aside, Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin still is the world's best player. But we judge our sports stars by their championships, and Crosby has a clear edge there over his Russian nemesis.

"I think he prides himself more on the success of his team than personal success, and that's a great compliment to him," Talbot said of Crosby. "You can compare him to Ovechkin as much as you want. Maybe at the end of their careers, Ovechkin's going to have more points. Good for him. Sidney's going to have more Stanley Cups. That makes him the better player, the better leader, and that's how I think I can qualify greatness."

We will watch for an encore, as Crosby tries to win another one.

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