Sidney Crosby is a changed man


We first got the hint this April that Sidney Crosby might have undergone a change in how he expresses himself. Who can forget his memorable line of “I don’t like ’em” during the Penguins’ contentious playoff series with the Flyers?

The remark wouldn’t have looked like much for a casual observer, but for people who’ve followed Crosby throughout his NHL career, it was a clear outlier when compared to his usual cautious tone. Especially in media settings, Sid did his best to remain reticent, forcing us to seek shards of his true personality elsewhere.

Maybe it’s maturation, maybe it’s confidence, maybe it’s the extended concussion ordeal that surely altered his sensibilities, but Crosby has unmistakably been more forthright in recent interviews. This spring’s emotional confrontation with the team he most despises may have been the trigger point.

However the 25-year-old arrived at this new era of openness, hockey fans are better for it. Seth Rorabaugh, editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s exhaustive Empty Netters blog, recently pinned down one of the world’s best athletes for an expansive interview that likely took days to transcribe.

April 15, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Flyers fan holds up a t-shirt as Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) sits in the penalty box against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period in game three of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Wells Fargo Arena. The Flyers defeated the Penguins, 8-4. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

Whatever effort it took to get the lengthy chat into written form was well worth it. I highly encourage you to take the time to consume it, as it contains the most words on record from Crosby in a single setting.

In the interview, Sid expounds on his frustration with the lockout, his feelings on hits to the head and supplemental discipline, the defensive nature of the NHL, his level of fitness, living with celebrity culture, recent Penguins trades and signings, the retirement of Detroit legend Nicklas Lidstrom, the team’s goaltending situation and public perception of himself and the Penguins, among other germane topics.

It’s Crosby at his most loquacious, a state that might be enhanced by the ongoing labor dispute, plus the fact he didn’t have a Penguins PR staffer looking over his shoulder. Once again, full credit to Rorabaugh for getting it on the record, but one gets the sense Sid was seeking a way to express himself and found it.

Life has a way of changing people, which makes it interesting to watch an athlete over the course of a career. Crosby has always been captivating on the ice, but he’s often left quite a bit in his verbal holster. It has been frustrating, especially since he clearly has no issue holding back during games.

In the interview with Rorabaugh, Crosby expresses frustration that certain players, coaches and staffers can’t keep in-game disputes from leaking into the media. I find that old-fashioned attitude fascinating, and it seems ironic he would betray that thought to a reporter.

Crosby, like all of us, can be a complicated person, full of apparent contradictions along with his obvious talent and drive to succeed. We can hope the man many believe to be the finest player in the sport will continue to be transparent, giving us more of a glimpse into his experience.