So as not to ruin my 15 + year tradition of going to training camp, earlier this week I found myself bundled up in the ice arena at Southpointe at the NHLPA unofficial Pittsburgh practice. Normally, there’d be a table with representatives trying to sell tickets and handing out handy-dandy pocket schedules and a cheat sheet roster of the black, gold, white, gray teams that would either scrimmage or practice skills. I found none on this Canadian Thanksgiving/Columbus Day. I did find about 20 other fans watching 18 boys play a version of pond hockey. The white team and the black team played a game from 9:30 am -11:00 am. Some had helmets with their numbers, other were only recognizable by their chuckles. They were having a good time and certainly were spirited. Some, with cage helmets were unrecognizable and were Pitt players who probably had a dear diary morning sharing the ice with likes of Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupruis, Tyler Kennedy, Matt Cooke, Matt Niskanen, Deryk Engelland, Ben Lovejoy, Craig Adams, and Chris Kunitz.
Sidney Crosby looked like the Sid we know and love, making unbelievable passes that amazed his teammates and left a poor unknown goalie shaking his head. After the “game” was over(no official scoreboard so can’t tell you what team won) 3 players remained on the ice. The Pitt players stood in the runway to the dressing room and watched as Crosby and Adams gathered pucks –which is usually Geno’s job after a practice. But they weren’t cleaning up. Using an orange construction cone, electrical tape and a stick (again, desperate times call for desperate measures) they constructed a pretend opponent and showed off their stick skills. Really? The drive and ambition, let alone the talent continued to amaze me. Hard for me imagine an athlete in another sport working like this in the same situation.
At the same time, across the real big pond, another talent was highlighting his skill – doing the exact same thing, minus the construction cone, splitting several players in his game for Metallurg Magnitogorsk. http://youtu.be/XBOiWtTwrYs?hd=1