CRANBERRY, Pa. — Sidney Crosby said he remains committed to finishing his NHL career with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Rumors that the 33-year-old center could play elsewhere emerged after the Penguins hired general manager Ron Hextall and president of hockey operations Brian Burke on Feb. 9. But Friday, one day before playing his 1,000th NHL game, Crosby said he intends to stay in Pittsburgh.
“Nothing’s changed,” Crosby said. “[The rumors are] definitely kind of a new subject that I’ve had to deal with and hear about a little bit. But I love playing here. This is where I’d love to play for the rest of my career. So, I can’t really control what’s said or rumors, or things like that, but that’s just kind of how I approach it.”
Crosby, who was selected by Pittsburgh with the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NHL Draft, will become the first to play 1,000 games with the Penguins when they host the New York Islanders on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, ATTSN-PT, MSG+, NHL.TV). Evgeni Malkin is second in Penguins history with 922 games played, followed by Mario Lemieux with 915.
The three-time Stanley Cup champion (2009, 2016 and 2017) is second in Penguins history with 468 goals, 808 assists and 1,276 points, trailing Lemieux (1,723 points; 690 goals, 1,033 assists) in each category.
As his career enters its later stages, Crosby said he isn’t looking ahead to retirement.
“I think as long as I feel good, I’d love to play as long as I can,” Crosby said. “I don’t really have an idea of what that age is or number is. I think I just focus on playing out my contract and seeing where I’m at then. I feel really good. … I feel good, and I want to play as long as I can. So, I guess we’ll have to see.”
Crosby’s contract runs through the 2024-25 season, which would end shortly before his 38th birthday. He signed a 12-year, $104.4 million contract ($8.7 million annual average value) with the Penguins on July 1, 2012.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said it’s a privilege to have Crosby and was a nightmare to coach against him before being hired by the Penguins on Dec. 12, 2015.
“I think he encapsulates everything it is to be a Pittsburgh Penguin,” Sullivan said. “He is the identity of this team. The team is built around him. That’s what he means to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That’s what he means to this community.”
In his 16th season with Pittsburgh, Crosby has won the Hart Trophy voted as NHL most valuable player twice (2006-07, 2013-14), the Conn Smythe Trophy voted as most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs twice (2016, 2017), the Art Ross Trophy for leading the NHL in scoring twice (2006-07, 2013-14) and the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy for scoring the most goals twice (2009-10, 2016-17).
Before achieving those accomplishments, Crosby said he remembers arriving at Pittsburgh International Airport for the first time in 2005.
“Just the amount of people that were there,” Crosby said. “Just the excitement, and just how welcome I felt from the very first day I got here right from that experience on. I think, as far as what I felt that day, I’ve felt the entire time since I’ve been here, and that’s just a real passion for the game and for our team. Supportive fans who are with us all the time.”
Out of 999 regular-season games, Crosby said the most memorable might have been his first in Pittsburgh. At Mellon Arena on Oct. 8, 2005, the 18-year-old scored a goal and had two assists in a 7-6 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins.
“Just feeling that excitement, that atmosphere,” Crosby said. “Finally playing at home. Getting my first goal.”
In the Penguins’ last home game that season, Crosby needed three points to reach 100. He had three assists in a 6-1 win against the Islanders on April 17, 2006.
“I think we’re in 29th place,” Crosby said. “Didn’t really have a reason to have an atmosphere like that. But everyone came out and were so supportive. You would’ve thought it was a playoff game that night, just the way people wanted to see me get 100 points and were supporting me that way. Just kind of one of those nights you didn’t expect when you step out on the ice.”
Crosby played his first NHL game Oct. 5, 2005, against the New Jersey Devils and Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur. He had an assist, but Pittsburgh lost 5-1.
If there was something Crosby could go back to tell that version of himself, he said it’d be to remain patient.
“There’s things you have to learn and things you have to experience in order to improve,” Crosby said. “It doesn’t happen overnight. Just to enjoy it as much as you can, because it goes fast.”