584-crosby-sidney-091223

At age 22, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins became the youngest captain to lead his team to the Stanley Cup. ((Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press))

Bestowing another individual award on Sidney Crosby seems incongruous. It is unfitting because if anybody believes in, or embodies, the importance and spirit of teamwork it is No. 87.

Crosby has never been about scoring championships, MVP trophies or individual honours like being named CBCSports.ca’s 2009 athlete of the year. Instead, he has been one determined hombre to win world junior and senior titles, Memorial Cups, Stanley Cups and Olympic gold. 

Nevertheless, it was his leadership, his dogged pursuit of the Stanley Cup that caught our attention and made him a near unanimous selection, with Jason Bay and Daniel Nestor also receiving votes, as our athlete of the year.

Trail, B.C.'s Bay was sensational patrolling left field for the Boston Red Sox, slamming a career-high 36 home runs and knocking in 119 RBIs. Toronto’s Nester won the Wimbledon doubles crown for the second summer in a row.

But it was an unforgettable time for Sid the Kid. Who doesn’t remember that cool June 12 evening at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena, when a jubilant Crosby hoisted the coveted Stanley Cup and then glanced up at the prized trophy like a child who was given the present he hoped for on Christmas morning.

"It's everything you dream of," Crosby remarked afterwards. "It's an amazing feeling."

Crosby wasn’t voted the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoff MVP. That honour went to his teammate Evgeni Malkin. But Crosby was the focus of Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who commanded his best defensive specialist Pavel Datsyuk to keep a watchful eye on the talented Crosby in the final.

Babcock, who as coach of the Canadian Olympic men’s team will count on Crosby in Vancouver in seven weeks time, had a few words for the Penguins captain as the two shook hands after the final, "great leadership."

Crosby experienced both joy and pain in the seventh and deciding game. He missed most of the final 34 minutes of the 2-1 battle after Detroit’s Johan Franzen nailed the Penguins captain along the sideboards at centre ice early in the second period, pinning Crosby’s left knee.

Crosby departed to the dressing room and other than a 32-second shift midway through the third period, he sat on the Penguins bench for moral support.

"We tried to make it so I couldn't feel it anymore, but it just didn't work," he explained.

At 21, Crosby became the youngest player to captain his team to the Stanley Cup championship and did so in his fourth season. Even Wayne Gretzky, who once predicted that Crosby would break all his scoring records, had to wait until he was 24 and in his fifth NHL year before he won his first of four Stanley Cups.

Crosby turned 22 on Aug. 7, the same day he spent with the Stanley Cup. He was serenaded with Happy Birthday throughout his tour with the Cup in his hometown of Cole Harbour, N.S.

Crosby arrived in Halifax in grand style aboard a military helicopter that landed on the deck of HMCS Preserver in Halifax harbour. He 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, and later took part in a parade in his hometown.

The celebration continued into the evening with a street hockey tournament for children and a concert by Montreal singer Sam Roberts.

Crosby was selected 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.

This fall he endured a brief slump, but swiftly rebounded. As he approaches the midway point of the 2009-10 season, Crosby is on pace to post some of his best stats yet. He has scored 22 goals and has a plus-14 rating in 36 games, which has him on track to score a career-high 49 goals and a career-best rating of plus-14.

Corrections

  • The Stanely Cup was presented on June 12, not June 7 as was originally reported.
    Dec 23, 2009 1:33 PM ET