crosby-cp-7136416

Pittsburgh Penguins captain and Nova Scotia native Sidney Crosby, travelling in a vintage naval fire truck, displays the Stanley Cup during a parade in his hometown of Cole Harbour, N.S. on Friday. ((Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press))

What's a 22nd birthday party without the Stanley Cup and thousands of well-wishers?

With the NHL's top prize in tow, Sidney Crosby returned home to Nova Scotia on Friday to a hero's welcome.

An estimated 25,000 people turned out for a parade through Cole Harbour — Crosby's hometown. As he thanked the crowd, fans serenaded the hockey star with the Happy Birthday song.

"People here are Cup crazy, it looks like," he told the cheering throng outside Cole Harbour Place.

"I'd love to be able to say this is something that's gonna happen every year, and I really hope it happens again sooner than later. For everyone here, for me personally, this is something that I'll soak up and enjoy just like you should."

The Pittsburgh Penguins captain arrived in Halifax in high style aboard a military helicopter Friday morning, landing on the deck of HMCS Preserver in Halifax harbour.

From the start, fans applauded and chanted his name as he held the Stanley Cup above his head.

"It feels good to bring it back, for sure," Crosby told reporters. "[It's] something I've always dreamed of, and it's an incredible feeling to be able to share it with everyone."

Visited hospital

Sid the Kid met with members of the Canadian military and their families before heading across the city to the IWK Health Centre, the children's hospital for the Maritimes.

Crosby said he wanted to share the Cup with the Armed Forces.

"Being brought up here, I see the dockyards and I see the ships every time I drive over the bridge. So this is something that I thought was important. There's a lot of troops that aren't here right now, they're overseas and things like that, but for the ones that were here, I thought they would really get a kick out of it," he said.

crosby1-cbc-250

Sidney Crosby hoists the Stanley Cup after landing on the deck of HMCS Preserver in Halifax harbour Friday morning. ((CBC))

Across the water in Cole Harbour, people were already lining up for the parade in his honour.

By the time it began mid-afternoon, the crowd had grown in size to include thousands of people of all ages.

Alexis Crossley, 15, has followed Crosby's career for years. Her father coached the star's midget team.

"It's just so amazing, his work ethic on the ice and off the ice," she said outside Cole Harbour Place. "That kind of just inspires every kid to get out and do something."

After the parade, 87 fans — Crosby is No. 87 — got a quick one-on-one chat with the star and their photograph with the Cup. The lucky few were chosen by lottery.

The celebration will continue Friday evening with a street hockey tournament for young children and a concert by Montreal singer Sam Roberts.

The day-long party is a major event, said Paul Mason, who once coached Crosby when he was growing up.

Sharing with all

"He wants to share it with the young and people of all ages and make it a community event," Mason said. "We're thrilled about that. The hockey community is very proud of him."

It won't be the first time fans have flocked to the area to catch a glimpse of Crosby. The speedy forward used to pack Halifax Metro Centre whenever his QMJHL team, the Rimouski Oceanic, played the Halifax Mooseheads from 2003-05.

Crosby, dubbed the "Next One" as a young player, was picked first overall in the 2005 NHL draft. In his rookie year in Pittsburgh, he became the youngest player to score 100 points in a season. He led the NHL in scoring in his second season.

Crosby said he couldn't imagine a better birthday than spending it with the Cup and fans in his hometown.

"I've always felt the support. It didn't take winning the Stanley Cup to feel that, but it's even bigger and more than I ever expected at this point. It really is a compliment," he said.

It won't be the first time the Cup has travelled to Cole Harbour. Joe DiPenta brought it home in the summer of 2007 after his Anaheim Ducks won the NHL finals that year over the Ottawa Senators.

With files from The Canadian Press