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It’s different this time for Boucher, Crosby

Posted Oct 26, 2010 by Tribune Sports

Updated Oct 26, 2010 at 07:35 PM


By TONY FABRIZIO

TAMPA Lightning coach Guy Boucher says it will be “weird” coaching against Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby on Wednesday night when the teams play at the Forum.

It’ll be the first on-ice meeting between the two since Boucher coached Crosby with Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for two seasons from 2003-’05.

Boucher was an assistant coach. Crosby was 16 when he arrived for his first practice and told a 20-year-old player “he wasn’t giving enough competition” in a one-on-one drill,” Boucher recalled.

The 16-year-old quickly became the league’s best player, took MVP honors in consecutive seasons, and led Rimouski on a 28-game undefeated streak and to the Memorial Cup finals in 2005.

Coach and player developed a mutual respect and remain friends.

“Sidney is a fun person to talk to,” said Boucher, “He has ideas about everything. … He’s an encyclopedia of hockey. … ‘This guy this that, and that guy did that.’

“He loves hockey for the game. That’s why I say he’s a good role model for kids and for people because, for him, it’s never about the money or fame. He’s an extremely humble guy. Off the ice … he’s a soft spoken, respectful individual. And then you get on the ice, and he’s just a fireball out there.”

Crosby, whose team has been in Tampa since Sunday, said he instantly recognized that Boucher had a “certain passion for hockey” and credited him for helping to develop his game.

“I remember doing a lot of one-on-one stuff on the ice,” Crosby said. “He always worked a lot of the skills-side of things .He was a pretty talented player himself, so I think there was always kind of a communication there as far as trying things and working on moves.

“He worked individually with guys a lot and was always pretty intense, that’s for sure.”

Boucher was asked to recall the most amazing thing he ever saw Crosby do. He gave a wide-eyed expression suggesting he didn’t know where to start after all the amazing things he had seen Crosby do with a hockey stick.

And then he chose anecdote that had nothing to do with Crosby’s athleticism.

The Oceanic, Boucher recalled, had returned from a road trip early in the morning after clinching a playoff berth. Players were greeted by a large number of fans who had stayed the night to buy playoff tickets. Crosby disappeared.

“He didn’t’ say anything,” Boucher remembered. “But he went to Tim Hortons, which is like Dunkin’ Donuts, and got muffins and donuts and juices and coffee for everybody. And he shook hands with everybody and thanked them for being there for us.

“He was 16 years old, so that was different.”

Crosby confirmed the story.

“We got a few players together and went and thanked them,” Crosby said. “We were thankful for the support we had in juniors, and Guy and the whole coaching staff we had there in Rimouski were a big part in developing the players and making sure we were learning things on and off the ice.”

By the time Crosby finished at Rimouski, he was one of the most highly regarded picks in history. He was taken first overall by the Penguins in 2005 and finished sixth in scoring as a rookie.

A year later, led the NHL with 120 points and became the only teen-ager to win a scoring title in any major North American professional sports league. He also won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the League’s MVP.

In 2009, Crosby became the youngest captain to lead his team to a Stanley Cup title.

Boucher said Crosby’s success is as much about his work ethic as his talent.

“He never wanted a day off,” Boucher said. “We had to force him. I remember one time, we told him there was a day off the next day, and he just hid his skates. He came back the next day, but the rink was closed. So he went to see the Zamboni guy to open it up for him. He went on by himself.”

Crosby finished second in scoring last year with 109 points, tying Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos for most goals with a career-high 51. Nine games into this season, Crosby has six goals and 11 assists.

But then Boucher knows how to stop him, having studied his strengths and weaknesses for two years in the Canadian Juniors.

Or not.

“I’ve seen a lot of people who thought they knew what to do against him,” Boucher said laughing. “And he (got) four or five points against them.”

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