Special end to Guerin's career
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As Penguins teammates, Sidney Crosby and Bill Guerin engaged in all sorts of give and take. It was about passing pucks on the ice, about laughter and life off the ice.
There was a different slant to the repartee Monday, when Guerin was at Consol Energy Center to announce his retirement as a player. This time, the good-natured barbs that punctuated their 15 months as teammates dissolved into straight-out admiration.
"The game has changed so much from when I started to now, but one thing that stays the same is that there's always these great players coming through," Guerin, 40, said. "I was lucky enough to play against [Wayne] Gretzky, play against Mario [Lemieux], [Jaromir] Jagr, all these guys.
"But what Sidney's doing right now, it's like an assault on the game. I think he's so driven, like a player that I've never seen before. For me to play with a guy like that later in my career was really special."
Crosby, 23, who had Guerin as a regular linemate for the 2009 Stanley Cup run and last season, is the NHL's leading scorer and extended his points streak to 16 games with an assist in the first period against the New Jersey Devils. He was the league's No. 1 star for November and for the week that concluded Sunday.
When the Penguins won the Cup, Crosby got the huge trophy first, and the first teammate he handed it off to was Guerin.
"Older guy coming in and me being a young captain, he was there to support," Crosby said. "That was important for me.
"He's a guy who likes to keep things pretty loose, and he did that with me. But at the same time we were competitive and it was healthy. I had a ton of fun and definitely am better for having played with him."
Moments after Guerin's arrival in 2009, he razzed Crosby about having shoulder pads built into his hockey underwear and about the sweat-soaked hat he stubbornly wore.
"Right away, he fit right in," goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. "He was a great hockey player, but I think off the ice, he was a great guy -- a great leader, but also a guy that likes to have fun, always in a good mood every morning."
Guerin couldn't resist poking fun at Fleury's weak attempt at a playoff moustache.
"Every day he would come in and put his finger [above his lips] and say [in a fake French accent]. 'Hello, mon frere. How you doing?' " Fleury said.
A guy who could score, dish out assists and hits, and occasionally fight, Guerin played for eight teams over 18 NHL seasons. He finished with 429 goals, 856 points in 1,263 games. He also played for the United States in three Olympics.
He was drafted by and began his career with New Jersey, winning a Stanley Cup there as a second-year player in 1995.
Guerin said he picked Monday to announce his retirement because it coincided with a game between his first and last clubs, the two closest to his heart and where he won titles.
In a pregame ceremony that prompted a standing ovation, Guerin was feted with a video tribute and a framed work of art. The Penguins also are treating the family to a vacation in Hawaii.
Guerin had been a free agent since July 1. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound right winger played 95 games with the Penguins over his final season-plus and was an essential part of the team's 2009 Stanley Cup championship after being acquired at the trade deadline.
He said he and his family bonded with Pittsburgh immediately, noting that the first game his wife, Kara, and their four children attended at Mellon Arena, the clan was a hit on the arena video board holding up signs bragging about having the world's best dad.
Guerin's family was with him as he spoke with reporters in the morning, and he broke down when thanking them and promising he would now be able to spend more time with them.
He wants to stay involved with hockey for what he called "the second half of my life," and that could be broadcasting, scouting or some other management position. He has appeared recently on the Versus network's "Overtime" NHL news show, and he has shadowed Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald.
Being on the journalism side has opened his eyes.
"The game just got so much easier," Guerin said, showing that wit.
"Probably one of the funniest guys that I've ever played with," Devils forward Jason Arnott said.
It was Guerin's pleasure.
"My teammates were everything to me," he said. "If I have given them a fraction of what they gave me, I'm very thankful for that."
First Published December 7, 2010 12:00 am