The barn was burning last night, and my voice is long gone from the festivities. The photographs are by Alan Diaz, and the top three are thumbnails if you need to see the proof with more detail. Sidney Crosby, already anointed as the next big thing, got smacked around OUR house like a felt-covered stuffed mouse. A Pittsburgh Penguins black and gold scratching post. David Booth looked like the world-beating all-star, and Sid remained a kid for one more night.
I have mad respect for the man, he looks great on the highlights. I have confidence that he will become the legend that the media is already labeling him. But last night, from five feet away, he looked human to me.
My life is blessed enough to have included in-person viewings of a few homosapiens that appear to be endowed with some sort of “extra” ability when they strap on skates and swoop across the ice with a stick in their hand. These are my choices for the most legendary examples:
1. Pavel Bure. I swear he is a vampire. Russia is close enough to Transylvania for me. We worked for the arena for two years just to see him skate practice. His ankles do things that none have ever done before. Too bad his knees couldn’t keep up. I doubt we will ever see a more exciting hockey player again.
2. Paul Coffey. Imagine this. You are 35 years old. Stanley Cup Playoffs. Very important game, against the team your fans love to hate most. You are in front of your goalie, and the puck squirts free at your feet. You instantly react, clearing the puck from danger. You slam dunk it, right into your own net. Ouch. Then you have the talent, will, and pure unadulterated killer instinct that allows you to weave the length of the ice, using four men a decade younger than yourself like orange cones in an obstacle course, and pop one top shelf on the other side of the rink for the win. Both nets, one period. When it matters most. Paul Coffey was smooth as fresh cream, and clutch as it gets.
3. Mario Lemieux. We saw him beat the Beezer on a penalty shot in the Miami Arena. It was supposedly his last regular season game ever. We saw Stu Barnes and the rat pack pull off one of the biggest upsets in NHL history the year before, and enjoyed the exquisite ruckus that falls out in a town when the opposing royalty gets knocked off the throne. But. He is the greatest player ever. I never much cared for Gretzky.