VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Free to take in what this diverse and vibrant city has to offer, a number of first-time visiting Pittsburgh Penguins looked forward to enjoying the sights and bright lights Friday evening.
Well, everyone except Sidney Crosby.
The 20-year-old reigning league MVP and scoring champ knows he couldn't just walk around without getting recognized – not that he craves the extra attention.
"Your teammates don't want to be waiting as you're straggling around with autographs and stuff," Crosby said. "That's the last thing they want. … They don't want to be taking back doors everywhere."
Lesson learned? The work of a captain extends off the ice, too.
Shortly after Pittsburgh was eliminated from the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring, Crosby accepted the role of team captain, making him the youngest player in league history to carry the ultimate designation of team leadership.
He had been offered it once before, midway through last season, but Crosby felt there was more to learn, more to experience, and that when the time was right he would know it.
"Coming into this season, I really felt like with the guys we have in the room and the veterans we have, it's a perfect situation for me," Crosby said on the eve of Pittsburgh's game here Saturday night. "I don't feel like it's all on my shoulders because I know I have a lot of support."
Crosby is no stranger to this youngest-ever theme. At age 19 and 11 months, he was 27 days younger than Vincent Lecavalier was when the one-time Lightning center was named Tampa Bay's captain.
Add that to these "youngest evers" for Crosby:
• Youngest to record 100 points in a season;
• Youngest to record 200 career points;
• Youngest to have consecutive 100-point seasons;
• Youngest scoring champion in team sports history;
• Youngest to be voted into the starting lineup of an NHL All-Star game;
• Youngest to win the Art Ross Trophy;
• Youngest to win the Lester B. Pearson Award;
• Youngest to be named to the first All-Star team;
And Crosby is taking it all in stride.
"It's a little more responsibility, but I don't feel added pressure with it," he said.
Gary Roberts is Pittsburgh's oldest veteran at 41 and one of the team's two alternate captains. He has played with great leaders and been a respected leader for most of his 20 seasons in the NHL. Roberts doesn't see any correlation between age and the responsibility.
"He comes to the rink every day prepared to work, prepared to push his teammates, and it's a pretty easy lead to follow when you've got your best player also the hardest worker," Roberts said.
Pittsburgh's coach Michel Therrien agrees and takes it one step further.
"He is a true leader, not only for our club, but I believe he's a leader for the NHL," Therrien said.
Crosby admired former long-time Detroit captain Steve Yzerman while growing up. Yzerman was 21 years, 5 months when named Red Wings captain. But continuing to live for a third season with ex-Penguins captain Mario Lemieux has provided the biggest impact.
"You come in and everything is so new, so many things you need to learn and experience," Crosby said. "But having him there, I felt I was able to fast track that more.
"There's so many things you don't know about and how to approach. Sometimes it wasn't always asking questions but being there to observe how he approached things. That was a huge help for me," he added.
Crosby says he tries more to hold his emotions in check, an adjustment he has made since breaking in and gaining a reputation for yapping about calls or non-calls to officials.
He's also cognizant of not letting the captaincy affect his performance. With 14 goals and 40 points through 28 games – a pace for 41 goals and 117 points – the league's second-leading scorer before Friday's games is clicking along similarly to his first two years (102 and 120 points, respectively).
"I really don't think it's been a huge adjustment," Crosby said. "Just because I'm wearing the 'C' doesn't mean I'm not going to make mistakes. I'll be the first one to tell you that, but I think it's something that motivates me to play well, for sure."