As he turns 30 on Monday, Sidney Crosby will celebrate his third Stanley Cup win parading the cherished mug through the streets of the city where he’s been a star since he was five years old.
The Pittsburgh Penguins captain will take in the festivities in Halifax knowing that after 12 years in the NHL, his place is already assured in the pantheon of the game’s greats and that he has fulfilled the promise that many saw in him from almost the first time he laced up a pair of skates.
In the tradition of Orr, Gretzky, Lemieux and now Connor McDavid, “Sid the Kid” was a hockey prodigy.
“He was not only the best player I ever saw, but significantly the best player,” said Brian Newton, a retired lawyer who coached a seven-year-old Crosby as a high-scoring centre on Cole Harbour’s Novice AAA Wings.
A prodigy at 5
In a recent interview, Newton recalled his first brush with a five-year-old Crosby — it came after getting a phone call from Sidney’s father, Troy.
Newton said the hockey season was about a month old when Troy Crosby asked that his son, who was playing Timbits hockey at the time, be moved up to play with the six-year-old group.
Knowing how some parents can be, Newton said he agreed to see whether the move should be made, but he asked Troy not to describe his son.
“I said, ‘Well no, if he’s this good a player I’ll be able to pick him out,”‘ said Newton.
‘Stuck out like a sore thumb’
Newton said shortly after the conversation he went to a Cole Harbour rink one Saturday morning.
“I just kind of hid myself from the parents and out these guys came and he just stuck out like a sore thumb,” he recalled. “It was just amazing — I’d never seen anyone with that skill level at five years of age.”
Newton said he was “amazed” to watch the young Crosby control the puck as a gaggle of tiny players frantically tried to get it away from him.
Crosby was moved up with the six-year-olds and the next year he started playing rep, a level reserved for the best players in each age group.
Desire and drive
Newton said at six and seven years of age, Crosby’s physical skills were clearly recognizable — as were other traits that often separate the great ones.
“He not only had…