PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – Pens head coach Mike Sullivan can appreciate Sidney Crosby in a way that few can. He’s not only coached him, but also tried to stop him.
“I will tell you from coaching against him before I became a part of Pittsburgh,” Sullivan said of those matchups. “They were nightmares. Watching him perform the way he did when I was on the other bench trying to figure out a way to neutralize him.”
“Happy to be on the right side of it now.”
Sullivan said it’s not often your best player is your hardest working and he, along with others, benefit from that.
“He sets the example each and every day,” Sullivan said. “The accountability starts with him and then trickles down through our organization.”
“He’s the standard. We are trying to establish a certain level of accountability amongst our team. We are trying to establish a certain work ethic each-and-every day that is necessary in order to win and be successful in this league. Sid is the standard that everyone holds themselves accountable to.”
“When your captain and your best player is also your hardest worker. Also believes in the approach you are trying to take with the team every day, as a coach it makes your job so much easier.”
Being with him for six seasons now, Sullivan said Crosby continues to stride to remain the best player in the game.
“He works on the details of his game every single day, whether it’s during the season or off-season,” Sullivan said. “He sets goals for himself in areas where he thinks he needs to improve. He just has an insatiable appetite to be the best. He wants to be the best. He is willing to put the time in and make the sacrifices in order to try to be the best.”
Crosby has the ability to do that without alienating others. He doesn’t push his leadership or influence on players. He is just himself.
“On the outside, it could look like our dressing room could be intimidating to walk into if you are a new player or young player with some of the star-power that we have and the accomplishments over the year,” Sullivan said. “Sid’s approach with these guys, the way he interacts with them. If anyone is intimidated coming into our dressing room. It certainly doesn’t last very long.”
“He makes them feel comfortable. He makes them feel like they are a big part of it right away. I just think his influence on the locker room and his teammates is so important to try and help us become the team we are trying to become.”
“I think he recognizes the influence that he has and he understands the responsibility that he has. He does a terrific job in helping to make players and teammates and people feel comfortable with the respect that he treats them with every day.”
Crosby does that with tremendous pressure of eyes being on him for 15 years, really longer. He was a phenom at home in Canada since he was an adolescent.
“I think he’s been the face of the NHL for the last decade-plus,” Sullivan said. “He’s encapsulates everything it is to be a Pittsburgh Penguin. He is the identity of this team and the team is built around him.”
“To do it with such grace and integrity and humility for me just makes this milestone so much more impressive. He goes about his business in such a respectful way with everyone. Everyone from his teammates to the people that work around the team. The equipment guys. The trainers. The security guys.”
“He has such grace and integrity with how he goes about his job each and every day. It’s just impressive to watch.”
Watching from a distance is all most of us could do Saturday night with Crosby, given the coronavirus restrictions in Pennsylvania.
“It’s a shame that we didn’t have a full building to witness this milestone,” Sullivan said. “It’s a great accomplishment. To play 1000 games in this league is a difficult challenge. To play 1000 games and have the impact that Sid has had night-in and night-out is even a more difficult challenge.”
Sullivan summed it up like this.
“Not only is he a winner and a champion,” Sullivan said. “He’s also willing to put the time in each and every day. It’s a daily endeavor. You don’t just flip a switch and create the type of legacy that he’s created. I think he has a lot of hockey left. It’s an honor and privilege to watch him each and every night build on that legacy that he’s already built.”