Sid the Kid won’t let the NHL lockout keep him on the bench, even if it means returning to the game in an unlikely fashion.
The Penguins superstar dropped in on some ball hockey last week, donning the goalie pads and posting a shutout against his aptly named opponents, Flyers Suck.
“It was pretty unbelievable,” said Joseph Heaney, who was referee at the Dek-Star Dekhockey Center in Ohio Township, northwest of Pittsburgh.
“To have the greatest hockey player in the world standing next to you, it’s kind of surreal that he’s standing right there, playing.”
The 24-year-old said Crosby suited up in the parking lot before the Dec. 14 game. Nobody noticed they were in the presence of celebrity until the dying minutes of the second period, when Heaney ran down the outdoor rink to make an icing call, he said.
He approached the net minder and noticed a flash of familiarity from behind his mask.
“I got the ball from him, and I was like, ‘Oh thanks, man. I don’t see you playing goalie for this team usually.’ And I looked at his mask, and I was like, ‘Holy . . .’
“He just started laughing.”
Word of Crosby’s surprise stint between the pipes started circulating on social media over the weekend, after Heaney posted a photo of the star centre in net on Twitter.
After an informal Penguins practice on Monday, Crosby confirmed to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he was out practising his saves Friday night.
“My buddy plays in the league there,” Crosby told the newspaper. “I played a lot of goalie in street hockey growing up and stuff. Just asked if he needed a goalie. He said sure and I came out. It was cool.”
Heaney said he was impressed with Crosby’s play. His team, the Pilots, posted a 4-0 win.
“I waited until after the game to tell everybody,” said Heaney. “He just wanted to be normal for a change and play with his friends.”
The hockey all-star from Nova Scotia has been involved in recent talks between the NHL Players’ Association and team owners to end the lockout and save the 2012-13 hockey season.
The league’s 750 players are voting this week on whether to give their union the power to disband.
So far, Crosby and his fellow players have missed 13 paycheques, and 526 games have been cancelled.
But for Heaney, there’s a bright side to the halted hockey season. It gave him the chance to one day tell his 7-month-old son about the time he shared the rink with Sidney Crosby.
“I couldn’t believe how cool he was.”