Dave Molinari on the Penguins: A weekly look inside the team, the issues & the questions
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It says something about Sidney Crosby's down-to-earth nature that he has no qualms about buying pants off the rack.
It says even more about why he's able to dominate at hockey's highest level that he almost never is able to do it.
Not because he's mobbed by admirers any time he wanders into a retail outlet -- although that hardly seems out of the question -- but because the companies that manufacture trousers don't design their product with guys like him in mind.
Crosby, you see, acts like a regular guy, but certainly isn't built like one.
His upper legs -- the source of his skating power -- are inordinately large, the result of years of rigorous training. Those thighs make it possible for him to fend off checkers and drive past defensemen, but pretty much preclude him from wearing pants that have been mass-produced.
"My waist is normal, probably like 32 [inches]," he said. "I have to wear probably a 36 or 38 -- probably a 38 -- waist, just to fit my legs. Then I have to bring the waist in."
There are, he said, "a few" brands of blue jeans that he can wear the way they are made, but "even jeans, I usually have to get them tailored at some point."
That goes a long way toward explaining why Crosby is partial to shorts and sweat pants. And why there is no finer hockey player on the planet.
Penguins enforcer Georges Laraque could have been annoyed recently when right winger Krys Barch of Dallas badgered him into fighting.
Or at least he might have been tempted to mention to Barch that he had more courage than sense, considering that Barch, who is listed as being 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, is not as tall -- and nowhere near as heavy -- as Laraque.
Instead, Laraque praised Barch (albeit not until after he had pummeled him) for having the intestinal fortitude to get involved in a fight he had every reason to believe he'd lose. Emphatically.
"It showed a lot of guts," Laraque said. "He's not a big guy, and he was showing his team that he's not scared and that he's ready to go to bat for any of his teammates.
"You have to admire that. The result really isn't important. It's just the fact that he showed up and that he wasn't scared."
Being scared doesn't usually get beyond the theoretical stage for Laraque -- only a handful of the league's top heavyweights reasonably could be expected to have a chance of holding their own in a fight with him -- but he can relate to Barch's motivation in going after the guy widely regarded as the league's finest fighter.
After all, when Laraque broke into the NHL with Edmonton, he did the same thing, building a reputation by going after the likes of Bob Probert, Tony Twist and Stu (The Grim Reaper) Grimson.
"When I was a rookie, I was doing that to make a name for myself," Laraque said. "Back the day, all the legends were there."
Gilles Meloche, the Penguins' goaltending coach, can give Marc-Andre Fleury tips about a lot of things.
His positioning. His rebound-control. His puckhandling. His mindset.
What he can't give Fleury are any first-hand insights on what it's like to go through an extended stretch when his game is out of sync.
So far as Meloche can recall, that never happened during his 18 seasons as an NHL goaltender.
And not because he had the good fortune to play on teams good enough to mask his struggles.
Quite the opposite, actually. Meloche figures that playing behind some of the most wretched collections of hockey talent since the invention of artificial ice -- can anyone who watched them reflect on the ineptitude of the California Golden Seals or Cleveland Barons without breaking into either a cold sweat or hysterical laughter? -- took away the option of sputtering for more than a game or two.
"I had my bad games, but [struggle] for a long period of time?" Meloche said. "Not really.
"It was easy to bounce back. [Facing] 45 shots a night, you had to be in the game. If not, you'd get embarrassed."
First Published December 9, 2007 12:00 am