This weekend could have been a lot different for Sidney Crosby. Instead of diving into the Stanley Cup final against Detroit, the Penguins' center and captain could have been hanging up his cap and gown and pondering his next move.
OK, considering Crosby was the top lottery pick in the 2005 draft and is widely described as one of the best hockey players in the world, putting off an NHL career four years ago to play in college might not have been prudent.
Yet Crosby said yesterday he strongly considered the college route about the time he spent 10th grade at Shattuck-St. Mary's, a Minnesota high school and hockey hotbed. He already had the choice in front of him.
"We offered Sidney Crosby a scholarship coming out of ninth grade," said former Notre Dame coach and NHL player Dave Poulin, who with the Fighting Irish had coached, among others, Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton.
"I got letters from Notre Dame and Maine and North Dakota ... There were a lot of teams I was considering going to," Crosby, now 21, said.
American college hockey was a bit foreign to Crosby because kids growing up in Canada are more oriented toward junior hockey, which goes to age 19. But he did well in high school and valued academics.
"A lot of people are really lucky to get that chance, to have school and hockey together," he said. "But, for me, I just felt I wanted to pursue hockey a little more and I felt like I could still get school done when I was done playing junior at 20 years old. I wasn't throwing school out the window by any means, but I was focusing a little more on hockey."
He chose junior hockey and played two seasons for Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League while he finished high school and since has been immersed in his pro career.
Had he chosen Notre Dame, Crosby might have been surprised at the academic standards.
"I have no idea how tough it is," Crosby said, "but if [Mark Eaton] went there, then it makes sense that it's tough academically."