There are a few notable things we know about Sidney Crosby.
He’s an exceptional hockey player — one of the greatest to ever play the game.
He’ll go down in history as a storied Hall of Famer and a key cog to much of the championship success in the city of Pittsburgh.
But most importantly—and somewhat unbelievably—he’s an even better person, and his influence has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
Over the past week, we witnessed even more evidence of that. Crosby’s Little Penguins Learn to Play Program, an organization he spearheaded and has been running since 2008, has helped more than 12,000 four to nine-year-old kids in the Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania area, outfitting them with full hockey equipment and instruction on how to play the game.
On the night of the Penguins tilt vs. the Anaheim Ducks, the Johnstown Warriors Youth Hockey Program bused its history making, first ever all girls hockey team to the rink so that they could watch the man who made it all happen — their favorite player, Sidney Crosby.
The 12U team had no idea they were headed to PPG Paints Arena, as head coach Sheri Hudspeth convinced them they were simply traveling to play an away game and not headed towards a huge surprise. They were shocked and elated once they realized what was going on.
During warm-ups before puck drop that night, the 12U girls team held up signs dictating what they call themselves in honor of the Penguins’ captain’s influence and role in their creation.
STORIES OF 10.10: Crosby’s Girls. That’s what the 1st girls hockey team from Johnstown calls themselves & it all started with Sid. Each little lady began her hockey career through Little #Pens.— Penguins Foundation (@pensfoundation) October 11, 2019
A surprise bus trip detour brought them to our 10.10 game & they sure surprised Sid! pic.twitter.com/OGPhF6xWs8
It turns out that every single one of the 17 girls—ages nine to 12—listed on the Warriors first ever all girls team learned to play hockey at Crosby’s Little Penguins organization.
“I think that’s really cool,” said Crosby. “That’s what it’s all about. It doesn’t always work out that way, but the fact that they made a team and are all continuing to play is great. My sister Taylor grew up playing hockey, and sometimes growing up, we had girls on our team. The fact that there’s enough girls to make a full team tells you that girls’ hockey is doing pretty well. It’s great to see.”
When you see him @usahockey @penguins #girlsrockhockey #girlshockey #crosbysgirls87 @pensfoundation #ThankyouSid #LittlePenguins pic.twitter.com/GZjaSrdZST— Sheri Hudspeth (@Coach_Sheri) October 11, 2019
To empathize just how incredible of a feat this is for local hockey in Johnstown, it is important to know that its presence has been in the city for 53 years, all thanks to the Penguins’ expansion into the NHL. In an effort to grow their fan base in western Pennsylvania, the Penguins organization, led by Jack Riley, made a significant investment into youth hockey around the region. The Penguins made a $5,000 donation to lauded Johnstown Jet, Don Hall, and the folks in the city with a mission to grow hockey across Cambria county.
The Cambria County Student Hockey League, commonly known as the Johnstown Warriors, was created as a result of this donation. And now, 53 years later, they finally have an all girls team.
This story is doubly meaningful to me, as I, a woman in hockey media, both hugely support the growth of the women’s game and grew up going to the Cambria County War Memorial religiously with my dad to watch the Johnstown Chiefs of the ECHL (hello, Slap Shot fans) as a kid. Now, at age 25, I still make sure I pop down route 56 to see a handful of Johnstown Tomahawks games at the NAHL level every season and show my support of local, amateur hockey. We were the first recipients of the Kraft Hockeyville donation in 2015, after all. The community’s continued excitement and backing of youth and amateur hockey is extremely special here.
And Crosby’s influence, reach, and kindness just made history.