Pittsburgh awaits Crosby's debut

Published: Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 1:03 a.m.
PITTSBURGH - Up in Canada, where hockey is as much a passion as it is a sport and its best homegrown players are prized not just for being fun-to-watch celebrities but national treasures, they've known all about Sidney Crosby for years.
Countless fans can recite his Gretzky- and Lemieux-like junior hockey statistics from memory. They can recall vividly the first time they saw him outskate two others to the puck or put a 100-foot pass directly on a teammate's stick.
The next Mario Lemieux? No doubt. The next Wayne Gretzky? Could be. His nickname? The Great One is already taken, so he settles for the Next One.
Crosby's debut, which comes Wednesday night at New Jersey, is easily the most anticipated for a Pittsburgh rookie since Lemieux's himself in 1984.
''He's going to be a superstar in this league,'' Pittsburgh Penguins teammate John LeClair said, making up his mind after a single training camp practice alongside Crosby.
And Sidney Crosby just turned 18.
In the United States, where hockey can disappear for 15 months without many people knowing or caring except for noticing the increased poker coverage on ESPN2, Crosby hasn't played a game yet but already is recognizable among the mostly indistinguishable mass of oft-scarred and stitched-up hockey player faces.
''This is huge for us,'' said Lemieux, the Penguins' owner-player who decided, coincidentally or not, to not sell the team as previously planned within days after landing Crosby.
Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby looks for a pass during second period NHL pre-season action Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2005 in Pittsburgh against the Columbus Blue Jackets. It was Crosby's first appearance on his new home ice.

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