When placed in front of the rolling cameras, flashes, and microphones, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was a droid. His appearance always squeaky clean, his words crafted specifically to avoid any more attention than he already receives, and his overall demeanor reminiscent of June Cleaver.
If Crosby was an average player, he would be lost among Paul Bissonette's tweets, Ilya Bryzgalov's theories on the universe, and Sean Avery's controversial stances on political issues.
If Crosby was an average player.
His dry-as-toast responses during media scrums quickly became the butt end of jokes, but Pens fans would quickly come to his defense: "His play on the ice does the talking for him." And it was the truth. Crosby admitted to being an "actions speak louder than words" kind of player. In fact, the media often leaned on Brooks Orpik's honest brutality to fill their articles.
Because of this, Crosby's true character has always remained somewhat of a mystery. Fans would devour videos that showed Crosby laughing hysterically or articles that painted Crosby as a conniving prankster. They know that those moments are a rare gem, an inside look behind the cinder blocks that have become the Face of the NHL. But just as quickly as they emerge, they disappear into the persona that has fed us tired, monotonous quotes since day one.
So tired and monotonous, in fact, never would a person utter the words, "I wonder what Crosby has to say about xyz."
Following games against the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers dripping with with hate, big hits, and more hate, Crosby exhibited a sauciness in his quotes never before seen by the mainstream media.
And it has been a breath of fresh air.
Crosby had a few choice words after NBC announcer Mike Milbury called took an asinine jab at his prior concussions and called him a punk, among other things, but his shining moment came today.
From Shelly Anderson's latest:
On Tortorella calling him and Evgeni Malkin whiners and the Penguins arrogant: ... I don't know what he's talking about. I mean, if you want you can put a camera on us all game, put a camera on [Rangers forward Ryan] Callahan all game and you'll see who's over there more. He should worry about his own players.
On whether this is all gamesmanship: ...The game's played on the ice. You get all this stuff going on. It really is, it's garbage. It's nonsense. If they want to do it great, but I'm not going to waste my time answering questions about it all the time. It's getting pretty old.
On what the trash talk accomplishes: ...If anything, they're trying to persuade officials from not making calls or second-guessing things. I hope it doesn't affect us. I really hope they're not listening to that crapbecause it's nonsense. They're trying every which way to gain an advantage. So be it. Try it, but we're not paying a lot of attention to it. It's getting old.
On how he came to back off some on the officials: ...There's no doubt I'm emotional. There are times when I'm going to get fired up, but not enough to warrant all that. It's nonsense. You can put a camera on me all game if you want. It's not even close. It's not even close.
Wow, has Crosby's soul been taken over?
No, we're just finally, finally seeing a side of Crosby we have been dying to see. A side that he has smothered with a mask of political correctness. But a few personal attacks later and Crosby is firing right back at the hate coming his way. Hate is something Crosby has dealt with since pee wee, so why the sudden change?
I can only guess, but the concussion/neck injury catastrophe changed Crosby's perspective and approach to the game. There was a point when he wasn't sure if he would ever play a hockey game again and he will most likely never take a killer Mike Kadar workout session for granted again. Almost losing something that important to Crosby could have flipped a switch in him.
Crosby just wants to use his God-given skills, play hockey, and win. He doesn't get caught up in team drama on or off the rink. Going through all that he went through last year, he has no time for BS. Especially after dealing with players thinking he was being a baby over the concussion problems, I think Crosby's had it with the insulting and name calling. In the past, he has dealt with it by embarrassing teams on the ice, but I think there's some justified bitterness that is fueling the snark in his quotes. Probably some pain as well.
None of this is a knock on Crosby, either. In fact, I think we are seeing a great deal of leadership on his end because he is standing up for not only himself, but his teammates and the rest of the Penguins organization. He's not hiding behind the "I'm-a-good-Canadian-boy-next-door" facade anymore and I think all Pens fans are very proud to see this side of him. After all, Crosby will have to become a more vocal leader as he continues to mature into his role on the team.
We don't know if this behavior is going to continue or if Milbury's, Laviolette's, and Tortorella's comments repeatedly struck a nerve that forced him to say something. Either way, Crosby is definitely carving an interesting path as the Penguins head toward the playoffs.
And most importantly, we're seeing that Crosby's human.