Sidney Crosby enjoys his down time as much as anyone but he has his limits.
The Pittsburgh Penguins captain hasn’t played a real game since April 10 and sounded stoked to be back at training camp during a conversation on Monday.
“This summer presented a little bit more of a challenge that way because I think I was a few months in and wanted to start playing games. That’s just where your mind goes,” said Crosby, who won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. “You’re used to training a certain amount and then wanting to get into the real stuff so it took a little longer. That’ll be good motivation going into this year, just to know off-seasons like that aren’t the best. You want to go deep and play as long as you can.”
“I went to Europe for a little bit right after the season so that was cool,” he added. “I started training over there around late May. Then I came back to Pittsburgh for a little bit and then I was home for July and August. I fished a bit and played a little golf but it was a lot longer off-season than I’ve had in years past. It still finds a way to be busy but it was a long time to go between when we finished to when we start.”
As hard as it is to fathom, this will be Crosby’s 15th NHL season. He has become an expert at managing his energy levels over the course of the whole calendar year, knowing when to push his limits physically and psychologically, and when to pull back and relax.
Going to Europe at the end of the NHL season has become his way of decompressing the past few springs. He said the change of scenery gives him a brief break from hockey and its churning routines.
“On vacation I just like to wing it a bit,” he said. “We get so used to having a schedule and structure all the time; I like that part about being over there. You can jump in a car and just go somewhere. I was in Germany, Switzerland and Austria and they’re all within a couple hours’ drive of each other so I like that.
“And obviously when I’m done being on vacation, I crave the routine and the structure again. It’s nice to get away from that a little bit, and over there I feel like I can do that. I just like to tour around, sight-see and do all the things unique to each place. And I do like history too so I like that part too.”
Crosby mentioned a trip to the D-Day beaches in France as a 15-year-old as a key moment in piquing his interest in history.
“That was a pretty unique experience to be able to see all that and to really wrap your head around what it’s really like standing on that beach. It’s got an eerie feeling but at the same time it’s just amazing how they were able to find a way to get up over those cliffs. With that terrain, it’s pretty crazy.”
“There’s so much history over there with the architecture and the castles and museums,” he added. “I went to Amsterdam and saw the Anne Frank museum. That was really interesting to learn more about her story. I love history so, really, I’m pretty wide open when it comes to anything like that. I just try to look up whatever’s unique to each place and then try to make time to go see things.”
But as much as his European vacation and an extended stay in Nova Scotia recharged his batteries, it’s also true Crosby is now 32 years old, an age when many athletes start to wonder how many chances to win they have left.
He followed 37-year-old Serena Williams’s loss to rising star Bianca Andreescu in last week’s U.S. Open women’s singles final and often studies the habits of older pros like Tom Brady and Roger Federer, who continue to win championships at 42 and 38 years old, respectively.
“I just love sports so I follow all those different story lines and see how athletes find success in whatever they do,” Crosby said. “Like anything, I think the people that have the most success in what they do are people who just love to do what they do and are committed to it. Whether things go well or not, they still seem to be pretty invested in it and they love it.
“I think that’s a pretty good approach and it’s worked for a lot of different athletes that are still playing at a high level later into their careers. I think you’re always trying to learn as an athlete from everybody but those are good lessons.”
But all that said, Crosby said he feels as young as ever these days. He knows there are tons of rising stars across the NHL who are hungry to be the best but some new training techniques have him feeling fast and energized.
“You look around the room and you see some of the guys coming in and you realize you’re one of the older guys on the team,” he said. “I think that just kind of reinforces that you’re one of the older guys now and that’s just the way it is. But I don’t feel older. For the odd time when you see the young guys rolling in, maybe for a split second you think, ‘OK, I’m 32. That’s one of the older guys on the team.’ But that’s about as long as it lasts.”