‘He was my idol’: Flames rookies excited for first showdown with Sid

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Of course, Jakob Pelletier remembers watching Sidney Crosby score the golden goal. What hockey-crazed Canadian kid doesn’t?

Pelletier, who was only eight years old at the time, also recalls a few words of wisdom from his father shortly before Sid’s sudden-death snipe at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

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“I was at my grandma’s house,” Pelletier reminisced. “And my dad, he told me before overtime, ‘Good players always come up in the big moments.’ And then Crosby scored right after. I was like, ‘Oh, wow.’ ”

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Saturday should deliver another wow moment for Pelletier, who is now recovered from injury and aiming to solidify himself as an every-nighter with the Flames.

With the Pittsburgh Penguins visiting on Miikka Kiprusoff’s special night at the Saddledome, the 22-year-old buzzsaw didn’t downplay what it would mean to face Crosby for the first time.

Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby of Canada celebrates after scoring the goal in overtime against the United States during the gold-medal men’s hockey final in Vancouver on Feb. 28, 2010. Photo by Harry How /Getty Images

“He was my idol growing up,” said Pelletier, who hails from Quebec City. “For me to play against him, it’s going to be unreal.”

Fellow Flames rookie Connor Zary might also be in pinch-me mode.

As a tyke in Saskatoon, he too admired No. 87. Now 22, Zary can actually provide play-by-play of Crosby’s golden goal against Team USA at Vancouver 2010.

“I remember watching it at home and seeing the puck go into the corner and you think it’s a broken play, and then (Jarome) Iginla over to Crosby and just a quick shot in the five-hole,” Zary said. “Probably one of the coolest moments in hockey history, at least for a Canadian kid growing up.”

And so to share the ice Saturday with Crosby, a three-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time Hart Trophy winner and two-time Olympic gold medallist?

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“I haven’t really thought about that until now, but that will be pretty special,” Zary said with a wide smile. “Obviously, he is the guy that everybody looked up to, especially in my generation. Everyone was a fan of him. Everyone wanted to do what Crosby did. What is Crosby doing? How does he handle himself off the ice? How’s he do it on the ice? What’s he doing in the summer?

“As a role model, he’s someone you look up to. So it will be pretty cool to see him out there. Obviously, once the game starts, it just hockey. But just to know you’ll be out there with a childhood hero, it will be pretty cool.”

Crosby has been around long enough that he once scored a hat-trick on Flames icon Miikka Kiprusoff, who will have his No. 34 raised to the rafters in a pre-game ceremony. (Kiprusoff is only the fourth player to have his jersey retired by the club, joining Iginla, Lanny McDonald and Mike Vernon).

At 36, Crosby still maintains a perch among the NHL’s elite.

Heading into Thursday’s late date in Seattle, he was leading the Penguins with 62 points — a mix of 32 goals and 30 helpers — in 56 games this season. With a strong finish, he could record his 1,000th career assist before the end of 2023-24 campaign.

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Asked what advice he might have for the youngsters on his roster as they prep for Saturday’s showdown with Sid, Flames head coach Ryan Huska replied: “Enjoy it, for one. But don’t be starstruck.”

“That’s one important thing — you have a game to play,” stressed Huska, whose squad has won four in a row. “I do think that when you face one of the better players in the league, it’s something players will look at and be like, ‘Wow, I’m actually playing against Sidney Crosby,’ for example. But at the same time, that’s it and then you move on and then you’re ready to play and ready to do what you have to do to win a game.”

In that case, Crosby has always set a fine example.

“It’s his work ethic, how he plays the game, how he always plays the right way … ” Pelletier said. “For me, when I was young and even now, the main thing in my head every time I am playing is to be the hardest-working guy on the ice every game. And I think that’s him every night.

“So just play hard against him, right? You can watch on the video after.”

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