Sidney Crosby recently became the sixth-fastest NHL player -- and fastest active player -- to reach 700 points. He leads the NHL with 38 points in 29 games. Tonight, the Penguins center and team captain is scheduled to play in his 500th game when the San Jose Sharks visit Consol Energy Center.
That would seem to make this an opportune time to catch up with the man considered to be the face of the league. Crosby, 26, recently sat down to discuss a wide range of topics.
Question: One thousand games is a pinnacle for an NHL player. You're going to be halfway there and still young. Is 500 games a milestone that makes you want to stop and reflect?
Answer: I think all those numbers make you think about it a little bit. When I think about 500, I probably think more about how many I could be at [if not for a lot of time lost to injuries]. But it's nice when you think about being halfway to a thousand. It's gone by pretty quickly, even though it could have been more.
Q: You've been in the league for several years and played hockey for probably all of your living memory. What's the biggest life lesson that you've taken from the game?
A: The biggest thing for me is the passion that I've always had for hockey. I remember growing up, no matter what I did in life, my parents always told me to try to do my best at it and be my best. I can say going through different things that that passion is the most important part. It's not skills or talent or any of that stuff. It's the passion. When that's at its highest, that's when my game is at its best. That work ethic, all the things that come with having that passion, that's the most important part. Whether you're trying to learn in hockey or trying to learn in life, I've always tried to be observant and tried to learn more, tried to evolve, whether it's as a hockey player or as a person. With each year, I try to do that. I don't know if that's something that consciously I think of -- I have to remind myself a lot -- but it's something that I try to think about.
Q: What are some of your favorite firsts?
A: First goal. First game is pretty cool. You're so nervous. You don't think that it's going to be 400 or 500 games down the road. All that matters is that one game. Everything is about that. And obviously, the Stanley Cup.
Q: The first Stanley Cup, you mean?
A: Yeah, hopefully there will be others.
Q: What kind of captain are you, and how have you grown in that role?
A: It's more lead-by-example. Try to say things once in awhile, but I don't think that that's really my style. Going back to the passion and being determined, showing that when things are tough is important.
Q: When you do speak up, is it in the locker room to kick some people in the behind, or is it on the bench, strategic stuff?
A: It could be either. You have to be confident in your instincts, when it's time [to speak up] and do what needs to be done. With each year, you just know when it's time, and it just happens. Guys need to trust you when you speak up. If you see something or know something that needs to be done or needs to be said and you trust your instincts, that's ultimately what it comes down to, and guys will trust you.
Q: What's it like to wake up the morning of a game day, and has that changed?
A: It's different. I can tell you from being hurt, going to watch games, to getting up in the morning having a game day, there's a difference. I don't know if it's excitement or anticipation or a certain level of focus, but there's something unique about it. Even though you're not watching the clock, you're not watching the seconds and minutes tick down, you're preparing.
Q: How well-rounded is your life away from hockey?
A: I think it's important to kind of get away a little bit. I enjoy simple things like everyone else. When I'm practicing, I think I'm pretty focused and I spend a lot of energy on making sure I get better, but once I'm outside the rink, I think, like anyone else, I like to enjoy everything that everyone else does. As far as what I do, a season like this [with a condensed schedule because of the Olympics], I just like being at home. You're traveling so much. Spending Sunday on the couch watching football or hanging out with friends, that's what gets me relaxed. I enjoy that kind of stuff.
Q: When you watch a hockey game on television, are you watching critically or are you scouting or is it for pure entertainment?
A: I tend to gravitate toward individual guys. When I watch a game, I don't really see the systems. We do so much of that [scouting] here, you don't want to do that at home as much. I automatically look at individual guys, stuff they do, and think, 'What could I have done in that situation?'
Q: You've never been to Russia, where the Olympics will be held in February. Can you come up with a comprehensive list of the countries you have been to, for hockey or on your own? Start with Canada and the United States.
A: Belarus. Latvia. France. Slovakia. Austria. Sweden. Finland. Czech Republic. Italy. Germany. Bahamas.
Q: You've been all over Europe in particular.
A: Yeah. I've been pretty lucky to go to some different places. That's part of being able to play hockey and go to a lot of those places and experience that. I look back on a trip I had with Shattuck[-St. Mary's High School]. Ten days in France, we only played three games. We did a lot of different stuff. I would have never dreamed of going somewhere like that if it wasn't for hockey.
Q: How are things going with the Sidney Crosby Foundation?
A: Good. We sold chocolates [recently]. It's been good. Last year we had a charity game in Cole Harbour [Nova Scotia] with all my buddies growing up and had a great turnout. I'm still trying to figure out one specific event that we can do annually, but we're always doing things.
Q: Is the house you're building in the Pittsburgh area finished?
A: Yeah. I'm just waiting for the furniture.
Q: What's your favorite element of the house?
A: My basement. There's a little bar, a place to relax. It's an Irish pub-style. I have a shuffleboard. That's an area I think I'll spend time in and hang out in.
Q: And now some fun, rapid-fire questions. First one, have you ever gotten a speeding ticket?
A: Did I get a ticket? No, I have not gotten a ticket. I got a warning a couple of times.
Q: Have you ever gotten a parking ticket?
A: Oh, yeah. Tons of parking tickets. I'm bad with that.
Q: Can you drive a stick shift?
A: No. I tried in junior. I almost ruined my buddy's car and he didn't want to teach me.
Q: What's the last book you read?
A: "American Sniper" [the autobiography of SEAL Chief Chris Kyle]. Or maybe it was "Unbroken" [a World War II story by Laura Hillenbrand]. One of those.
Q: The Penguins were just in Florida. Do you burn or tan in the sun?
A: The first base is burn, but after that I tan.
Q: What's your favorite kind of joke?
A: One hundred percent, a practical joke. When you're around some of these creative minds, it's a lot of fun to see what they come up with.
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.