The Chicago Blackhawks Connor Bedard is facing the same type of expectations that awaited Sidney Crosby when first came into the league back in 2005. A once proud franchise, just over a decade removed from its best years, is going through a stretch of struggles.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were close to being sold off and it was Mario Lemieux who came to the rescue. Crosby was right behind him–being the generational talent he always looked to be and going on to win three Stanley Cups, including one just four seasons after his rookie campaign.
But it wasn’t easy and boy was there scrutiny. Connor Bedard is in a similar boat–expected to bring the Blackhawks back into contention while many fans around the league have sour grapes over the Blackhawks winning the draft to snag Bedard.
So what would Crosby, with a similar entrance to the league and flush with experience, tell the 18-year-old?
Crosby’s Advice to Connor Bedard is Simple
Crosby, it turns out, knows Bedard enough to say hi, but they aren’t BFF’s–yet. Bedard worshipped Crosby as a kid so getting the ear of one of the league’s best is certainly something.
What did his idol tell him. According to Pittsburgh Hockey Now’s Dave Molinari, it’s quite simple.
“Just enjoy it,” Crosby said. “I still remember so much of my first year, all these years later. Going into buildings for the first time, cities. Playing against guys every night that you were watching the year before. You get up for that challenge, but also, you want to enjoy it, because you only have that first year once, and there’s so much that’s so cool about it. He’s going to want to do well, but (he should) try to enjoy it as much as he can.”
Crosby also told him to not be afraid to say no from time to time.
Crosby rarely — if ever — did. He did everything team officials asked to promote the franchise, and sat dutifully in his locker after every practice and game, answering reporters’ questions on every subject that could be imagined. And a few that probably couldn’t be.
The Human Side of the Game
Molinari’s article is a great read and provides insights from the game’s first true generational player of the Cap Era. But it shows the human side that is lost in the shuffle of all of it.
Even interviewing and asking Bedard questions, it’s a marvel to think he’s an 18-year-old kid, the same age as of high school seniors more worried about heading off to college soon. The pressure Crosby speaks of is certainly there.
Driving home from the preseason game the other night, I saw young fan still hanging around at 11:30 at night, Bedard jerseys in hand and a sharpie to boot. They were hoping for the chance that he would be there to sign.
Yes, Bedard signed up for this in that he loves hockey. Of course, he’ll be handsomely compensated for that skill. By all intents and purposes, he’s generational like Crosby.
But the human struggle is subjective to circumstances and in Bedard’s, it’s the pressure he likely feels when he takes the ice. He’d be the first to tell you to not feel sorry for him.
But the words from one generational player to a hopeful one certainly are fascinating. Patrick Kane once donned a cape as a joke during the All Star Game. It was all in good fun.
Crosby and Bedard never physically did the same, but they certainly are expected to wear the metaphorical one.
But the former is urging the latter to remember that the cape can be removed from time to time.