Sidney Crosby named captain of Team Canada for Sochi Olympics



Penguins center Sidney Crosby sat on the news for a couple of days.

And when it was made public Sunday that he would serve as captain for the Team Canada hockey squad at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics next month in Russia, Crosby didn’t exactly jump up on a soapbox to thump his chest.

He certainly was appreciative — he used the word “honor” four times in less than five minutes.

But Crosby was low-key about the role he will play.

“I don’t think it changes a whole lot,” he said. “Lots of really good leaders there. Lots of guys with a lot of experience. In a short-term event like that, you just want to come together quickly as a team and make sure that we’re all on the same page.”

Crosby’s alternate captains will be Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber.

Scouting report
 
Matchup: Penguins vs. Florida Panthers, 7:08 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.

TV, Radio: Root Sports, WXDX-FM (105.9).

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins; Tim Thomas for Panthers.
Penguins: Have won a franchise-record 13 home games in row. … Are 5-0-1 in past six games overall. … Sidney Crosby has a 17-game home points streak (eight goals, 18 assists).

Panthers: Are 3-3-1 in January. … Have killed 31 penalties in a row over nine-plus games. … Dmitry Kulikov has three points (two goals, one assist) in past four games.

Hidden stat: On their home winning streak, the Penguins have scored three or more regulation goals in 12 of the 13 games.

At the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, Crosby was an alternate captain, along with Jarome Iginla and Chris Pronger. Scott Niedermayer served as captain. Those latter three are not on the 2014 team. In November, when he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Niedermayer promoted the idea of Crosby succeeding him as captain.

There are several other indicators that would seem to make Crosby, 26, a natural for the role.

He has been the Penguins captain since May 31, 2007. At that time, he was the youngest team captain in NHL history, at 19 years, 297 days old. He then became the youngest captain to lead his team to the Stanley Cup in 2009 at age 21.

In 2010, he scored in overtime against the United States in the final of that tournament to secure the gold medal for Canada.

“He’s an unbelievable leader and a guy who leads by example on the ice with every shift,” Penguins winger and fellow Canadian James Neal said. “He’s a special player, and he deserves to be captain.”

Defenseman Paul Martin is a member of Team USA who at some point may be tasked with shutting down Crosby in Sochi, but he couldn’t argue with Crosby’s appointment.

“I think we expected that,” Martin said. “It’s well deserved.”

Crosby spoke with Team Canada coach Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings and Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning late last week and was told of his appointment.

He figures he won’t have to make motivational speaking, even with some first-time Canadian participants, part of his repertoire in Russia.

“I don’t think that it takes a lot of work,” Crosby said. “I think most guys have played for Team Canada [in some capacity] in the past. We all understand that you might have a different role or things might be a little bit different, but the most important thing is that you come together quickly.

“No matter if you’ve played in three or one [Olympics], I think everyone realizes that and comes together pretty quickly.”

Crosby has played in the International Ice Hockey Federation world junior championships and the world championships — though not since 2006, because the Penguins are perennial playoff participants — but this will be the first time he will serve as captain of a Canadian team for international competition.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Post-Gazette in November, Crosby said he was primarily a lead-by-example type of captain, but he offered insight into other aspects of the role.

“You have to be confident in your instincts, when it’s time [to speak up] and do what needs to be done,” he said then. “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.”

Crosby predicted Sunday that Team Canada will be aided in bonding because the players are likely to spend a lot of time together in the athletes’ village because of logistics.

“It’s not like Vancouver where you were two minutes from the city in the athletes’ village. The village was right there,” he said. “Now you’re probably an hour from everything else. So I think that guys will be together a little bit more than they were last time.”

It also might be prudent in light of some concern over safety and security.

The U.S. State Department this month issued a travel warning for Americans going to the Olympics because they present “an attractive target for terrorists.” Suicide bombers recently carried out deadly attacks in Volgograd, about 600 miles from Sochi.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has assured the world that Russia will provide security.

“Everybody watches the news and knows that there have been things happening fairly close to there, but from what we’ve been told they’re going to do everything they can to make sure it’s safe and secure,” Crosby said. “We’re going over to play and focus on that. [Security is] not something that everyone’s totally worried about, but I think it’s hard not to think about it when things are happening kind of close to there.”

The Olympic break starts Feb. 9. The Penguins have a home game Feb. 7 against the New York Rangers.

While Boston star defenseman Zdeno Chara has received permission from the Bruins to miss a game or two so he can carry the Slovakian flag at the Feb. 8 opening ceremony, Canada has not named a flag-bearer, and Crosby said he has not been approached about the possibility of missing one or two Penguins games to attend the opening ceremony, much less carry the flag.

“It hasn’t been brought up,” he said. “I don’t think it’s something they did in Vancouver, so I doubt that they would be asking this time around. But I haven’t really thought about it.”


Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. First Published January 19, 2014 11:14 AM

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