For the second time in his career, Sidney Crosby hoisted the Stanley Cup this year. He also won his first Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP with the Penguins. Pretty good, considering his campaign started with an uncharacteristic offensive slump. But once Mike Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston as coach, Sid and the boys went into overdrive and blazed their way to the Cup, shaking off formidable teams along the way.
So how does a champion spend his summer? I caught up with Crosby to find out.
First off, even an intense and focused player such as Crosby enjoys his down time. This year, it was a trip to Florida and a getaway to Fox Harbour, in his home province of Nova Scotia.
Quick vacations are nice, because with the Cup run and the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, this will be a very short summer for Crosby. But he's not sweating it.
"Every summer has its own challenges," Crosby said. "Long ones do, too. But as far as training goes, I'm lucky to have the strength coaches with our team, Andy O’Brien and Alex Trinca, that can help make sure I get the most out of each workout. Also, with the World Cup, I need to be in game shape much earlier this year."
Not that Sid has been off the ice too long. He held his Sidney Crosby Hockey School again in Cole Harbour, his home town in Nova Scotia. The camp benefits his charitable Sidney Crosby Foundation (which raises funds for several causes, many involving children) and keeps the Penguins superstar with his people.
"There are a few things I really enjoy about the camp," he said. "The first is having the camp in the rink I grew up playing in and being around kids that want to be out on the ice and love the game. That's fun for me as well. It's nice to get everyone together within the community, as friends and family make up a lot of the volunteers. It's also something that benefits my foundation. I’m happy that people are willing to support that as well and it's great to be able to do that through hockey."
Speaking of hockey, Crosby is known to use his off-season to improve diferent facets of his game and while he appears to be at the top right now, he still had a couple bullet points for himself this summer (which explains why he is still on top).
"Speed is always a really important part of my game," he said. "Making sure speed is there and also my shot, I need to do a better job of using it sometimes."
Somehow I don't think a faster Crosby who shoots more is good news for the goalies and defensemen of Pittsburgh's 29 opponents next season. What's more, that Penguins team that took off during Sullivan's tenure comes back almost completely intact. Is there any reason – other than the fact players such as Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will be playing a ton of hockey thanks to the Cup run and World Cup – that this Pittsburgh team can't repeat as champions in 2016-17? Sure, no franchise has done it since Detroit in 1997-98, but that doesn't mean it can't ever happen again.
And it is a nice challenge.
"It's a great position," Crosby said. "You work hard to win and it's even harder to continue to. Teams will measure themselves against us and will be at their best because of the fact we won last year. We have to understand that, as challenging as it was to win, it is even more difficult to repeat. That's our goal and there hasn't been a team to do it for a long time. It would be quite the accomplishment."
And given how Crosby's NHL career has gone so far, an accomplishment that wouldn't be surprising if it did come to pass.