Hockey's Next 'Great One' Ascends

Even those who don't follow hockey might know the names Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Another name might rank among them now: Sidney Crosby. At just 23 years old, the Pittsburgh Penguins' captain has already won a Stanley Cup, an MVP award and scored Canada's Olympic winning goal. Host Scott Simon talks to hockey analyst P.J. Stock about hockey's rising star.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Even those that don't follow hockey might know the names Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Another name might rank among them now - Sidney Crosby. Just 23 years of age, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain has already won a Stanley Cup, a Most Valuable Player award, and scored Canada's Olympic-winning goal.

Sidney Crosby is now on a 20-game point streak, having scored or assisted on 39 goals in the process. That's more than the entire New York Islanders team in that same stretch. P.J. Stock, former player, hockey analyst, and was Wayne Gretzky's former teammate on the New York Rangers, joins us from Toronto.

Thanks very much for being with us, Mr. Stock.

Mr. P.J. STOCK (Hockey Analyst): Thanks very much for having me.

SIMON: So Sidney Crosby, the next great one?

Mr. STOCK: Well, he's the next great one right now. I mean, he's already the great one. What he's been able to do in such a short career is pretty amazing. He's currently on a point streak that's pretty mindboggling a little bit. Not so much that - it's been done before. Of course, the longest ever was Wayne Gretzky, like you mentioned, who did 51 games.

But Sid's doing it on a pretty empty lineup. They're missing some of their top-flight players. And Sidney's been able to carry that team on his back. He's got 54 points in 33 games. The next closest guy to him has 25 points. He's a great one now. He's fantastic.

SIMON: And what makes him great?

Mr. STOCK: Again, I'm going to go back to Wayne Gretzky and what made him special. And the parallel that Sidney has with him is they see things before they happen. They know where the puck's going to be before it gets there. I think that's what makes Sidney. And then when he gets the puck, he can beat you in so many ways. He's not at all a one-trick pony.

SIMON: His teams have an interesting history of winning. What does he do to elevate the entire team?

Mr. STOCK: Everything he does he competes so hard. And he competes on every shift. And not only that, he competes so much on non-game days. He competes working out. Everything for him is he's pushing himself to get better. And when you see your best player on your team or in the league pushing himself, if you're watching, if you're a teammate watching, it's contagious, his work ethic. The closest people to him are obviously the Pittsburgh Penguins. And I think that's been able to spell out success for them.

SIMON: I might've put you in a difficult position as Wayne Gretzky's teammate, but one shot on goal, five seconds left, who do you want to have the puck -Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby?

Mr. STOCK: Well, Wayne's in his 40s.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STOCK: 'm going to take Sid right now. But Wayne in his prime was pretty impressive. I think what they both do, what Wayne did really well...

SIMON: Yeah?

Mr. STOCK: ...I think he was probably the best ever - and it was made everyone around him that much better. Everyone knew that Wayne was going to pass the puck to a player. Everyone in the rink knew, but they still couldn't stop him for doing it.

I think Sidney is - when he first came into the league, wasn't great on face-offs, didn't have a great shot. In a short couple of years he's now one of the best face-off men in the league. He now leads the league in goals. If you ask me again in a few years - two years, three years, four years down the line -that might be a little tricky one.

SIMON: P.J. Stock in Toronto, thanks so much.

Mr. STOCK: Thank you.

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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