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Crosby being mentioned with game’s all-time greats

Pittsburgh Penguins team captain Sidney Crosby shoots the puck Wednesday, June 7, 2017, during practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pa., Wednesday, June 7, 2017.  The Penguins host the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey finals on Thursday. The best-of-seven series is tied  2-2.  (Peter Diana/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)
Pittsburgh Penguins team captain Sidney Crosby shoots the puck Wednesday, June 7, 2017, during practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pa., Wednesday, June 7, 2017. The Penguins host the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey finals on Thursday. The best-of-seven series is tied 2-2. (Peter Diana/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Forbes MacPherson was all the way to Texas when he realized just how good of a hockey player his young Maritime cousin was. 

MacPherson was playing with the Shreveport Mudbugs of the Western Professional Hockey League in 1998-99. He had friends coaching minor hockey in Atlantic Canada who told him his cousin, Sidney Crosby, was special.

Just how special became crystal clear during a Mudbugs road trip to Laredo, Tex.

“I woke up in the morning and the USA Today was at my hotel room door, so I picked it up and started reading it. He was on the front page of the sports section,” MacPherson recounted on Tuesday. “I was just like, ‘Wow. This is crazy. He must be good.’”

Now remember, it was during a time before social media and when staying connected through technology wasn't as easy as it is today.

Crosby and his Pittsburgh Penguins teammates won the Stanley Cup on Sunday night in Nashville, Tenn., with many people in Atlantic Canada pulling for them.

MacPherson said he doesn't miss watching too many Penguins games during the season and was glued to the TV for the final.

With about six or seven minutes remaining, and the score tied 0-0 on Sunday, he remembered someone saying the next goal would be the winner. And then Patric Hornqvist scored with 1:35 remaining.

“Your initial thought is they won the Cup, but then you kind of have to get dialed in and say, ‘Wait a second, there’s a minute and 40 left here and anything can happen.’”

As the seconds ticked down, MacPherson recalled thinking how special of a run it has been for Crosby.

The Penguins became the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champs since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998 and the first to win back-to-back titles during the salary cap era, which began in 2005.

“This is crazy that this is happening. It is just so hard to repeat now,” MacPherson said.

Crosby, who has won three Stanley Cups during his 12-year NHL career, is considered the game’s best player and he won’t turn 30 until Aug. 7. He also helped Canada win an Olympic gold medal and the World Cup during the past two years.

The Cole Harbour, N.S., native has been mentioned with Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux and Jean Beliveau as the NHL’s all-time best.

MacPherson has heard the chatter, but he said there’s plenty of time for that conversation to be had after his playing days.

“He’s relatively still a young man. He could potentially just be hitting his prime, along with a lot of other players on that team,” the UPEI Panthers head coach said.

The talk comes as no surprise to Orwell native Kris MacDonald, who played against Crosby in minor hockey, major junior and at the Canada Games.

“I remember playing him in the Spud (tournament). I think they beat us 7-0, and he scored like six goals,” MacDonald said of the novice game. “He was the only kid that could take a slapshot from the blue-line and go bar down.”

Crosby was 14 years old at the 2003 Canada Games in Bathurst-Campbellton, N.B.

“There were a few other big names at the tournament, but he was hands down the best player,” MacDonald said. “I think we tried three different guys to shadow him, and there was just no shadowing him. He was just way better than anybody else on the ice.”

Crosby scored four goals and added two assists in a 9-1 win over P.E.I.

“The rink was sold out, and everyone was there to watch him,” MacDonald recalled. “He always performs under the pressure.”

MacDonald is now an assistant coach with the Acadia Axemen’s hockey team. He played there from 2007-08 to 2009-10 and two of his teammates, Mike Chiasson and Danny MacKinnon, are now in Pittsburgh working with the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite program.

MacDonald was down to see one of the Penguins first-round games and is glad to see Crosby performing well and continuing to have success.

“As a Maritimer, you’re rooting for those guys,” he said. “He’s worked hard for it and he doesn't forget where he came from.”

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