May 5-21, 2006 - Riga, Latvia
Sidney Crosby was famous in Nova Scotia until he was about 14. Then, when Wayne Gretzky suggested this young teenager could one day break some of his records, Crosby was famous around the world. In junior hockey, he lived up to his tremendous billing as the next great star, and his rookie season with Pittsburgh in the NHL was exceptional. The Penguins, however, were a re-building team, and they failed to make the playoffs despite Crosby’s 39 goals and 102 points as an 18-year-old.
Of course, he got the call from Team Canada general manager Jim Devellano to play for coach Marc Habscheid at the World Championship in Latvia, and Crosby happily agreed to continue his season and extend his international career beyond his silver (2004) and gold (2005) medals from the World Junior Championships (U20). Crosby was joining a team that had won gold at the 2003 and 2004 World Championship and won silver in 2005, the year of the lockout. Team Canada ’06 featured Patrice Bergeron, who had won gold in 2004, and a host of other talented Canadians, notably Brad Boyes, Jason Williams, Jeff Carter, Kyle Calder, and Mike Richards. The team got a further boost by the late addition of veteran Brendan Shanahan.
Crosby arrived in Riga and, quite simply, took over the tournament from the start of game one. By the time the tournament was finished, he had led the World Championship in goals (8) and points (16) to become the youngest player ever to do so. More important, though, was how he played. There was no sense of fatigue, no sense of going through the motions or taking a back seat to Shanahan, Bergeron, or anyone else. In truth, he led and inspired the Canadian team through his play.
In Canada’s first game, a close 5-3 win over Denmark, it was Crosby who made the difference. He scored the game’s second goal to give Canada a 2-0 lead, but by the end of the second period the surprising Danes had tied the game, 3-3. Crosby scored the go-ahead goal early in the third, a goal that stood as the winner. He had a goal and two assists in the team’s next game, an easy 7-1 win over Norway, and in game three, he scored in the second period against Team USA to erase an early American lead en route to a 2-1 Canada win. It was, perhaps, the best goal of the tournament. Linemate Patrice Bergeron, deep in his own end, spotted Crosby streaking up ice and hit him with a beautiful pass just before the centre red line. Crosby exploded between two defencemen as soon as he got the puck, steaked in all alone, faked and deked goalie Jason Bacashihua at top speed, and slid into the corner after the spectacular goal. The crowd was in awe.
In an easy 11-0 win over the host Latvia, Crosby had a goal and assist in the first period, and in a 6-4 loss to the Czechs, he also had a goal. The only thing missing from his tournament was a medal, as Canada lost to Sweden 5-4 in the semi-finals and was then shut out 5-0 by the Finns for the bronze medal. Against Sweden, Canada trailed 5-2 midway through the game, and Crosby almost completed a great comeback. He scored a goal late in the second period to make it 5-3, and early in the third he made an unbelievable pass from the corner to Bergeron in the slot to make it 5-4. Try as they might, Canada couldn’t tie the game.
By the time the tournament was over and Sweden had claimed its historic gold (to go along with its Olympic gold just three months earlier), Crosby had left his mark on the senior international game. He may have been only 18, but he played with a combination of remarkable, youthful exuberance and extraordinary maturity. The world will see more of Sid the Kid before he is done.
As part of the IIHF's 100th anniversary celebrations, www.IIHF.com is featuring the 100 top international hockey stories from the past century (1908-2008). Starting now and continuing through the 2008 IIHF World Championships in Canada, we will bring you approximately three stories a week counting down from Number 100 to Number 11.
The Final Top 10 Countdown will be one of the highlights of the IIHF's Centennial Gala Evening in Quebec City on May 17, the day prior to the Gold Medal Game of the 2008 World Championship.
These are the criteria for inclusion on this list: First, the story has to have had a considerable influence on international hockey. Second, it has to have had either a major immediate impact or a long-lasting significance on the game. Third, although it doesn't necessarily have to be about top players, the story does have to pertain to the highest level of play, notably Olympics, World Championships, and the like. The story can be about a single moment — a goal, a great save, a referee's call — or about an historic event of longer duration — a game, series, tournament, or rule change.
Click here for the 100 Top Stories