Sidney Crosby is the face of the NHL and hockey in Canada, so it’s only natural that he’ll be the country’s captain at next month’s Sochi Olympics.
The Pittsburgh Penguins captain, who scored the gold-medal-winning overtime goal against the United States in Vancouver four years ago, got the nod to wear the “C” this time around. Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators were named alternate captains, Hockey Canada announced Sunday morning.
Sidney, Jonathan and Shea have been leaders on the international stage in the past, as well as with their NHL teams. These three players will be at the forefront of our efforts in Sochi, but we are confident we have 25 players on our roster that will lead in their own way and allow our team to be successful. –Coach Mike Babcock said in a statement.
There will be no shortage of leadership in Sochi given the presence of six NHL captains, but it starts with Crosby.
“Playing for Team Canada, playing in the Olympics is a great opportunity,” Crosby told reporters at Penguins practice. “But being able to be named the captain is definitely an honour.” Crosby was made the youngest captain in NHL history when he got the “C” for the Pittsburgh Penguins six and a half years ago. In 2009 he raised the Stanley Cup as captain.
At the 2010 Olympics, Crosby was an alternate along with defenceman Chris Pronger and winger Jarome Iginla. The 26-year-old Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, native doesn’t expect his mind-set to change much. Veteran defenceman Scott Niedermayer captained that team and said before his Hockey Hall of Fame induction in November that he had no doubt Crosby is ready to assume that role. “He’s very mature,” Niedermayer said. “He was probably ready when he was 16. He was probably ready in 2010, and the thinking was he’s going to have enough pressure on him just from who he is and things like that that he doesn’t need one more thing to worry about, give it to some old guy that’s just trying to figure things out out there. I’m sure he would do very well.”
Toews seemed like the only other logical option, based on performing in 2010 and leading the Blackhawks to two Stanley Cups. Last week he acknowledged the possibility of being named captain. “I’m ready for any role,” Toews said in Montreal. “Last time, I played five, six, maybe seven minutes at the start of the tournament in Vancouver. By the end of it, the coaches had more confidence in me. They put me in more defensive situations. This time around won’t be different. Whether I’m captain — or not — whatever. I’m going to Russia to win a gold medal like everyone else.”
This will be the second Olympics for most of the core, including the leadership group. “Honestly, it doesn’t get old,” Crosby said in Vancouver of just making the team. “That feeling doesn’t get old. The appreciation and being proud to represent your country, it’s the same for everybody.” Asked if he preferred “Captain Canada” over his current nickname of “Sid the Kid,” Crosby said: “I’ll let you guys worry about that.” Ryan Smyth of the Edmonton Oilers has that moniker, and Crosby expects it to stick with the Hockey Canada mainstay despite this announcement.
STEPHEN WHYNO The Canadian Press