The first time I saw
"So?" a friend asked when I returned from the trip. "Real deal?"
"I'm can't guarantee he'll ever win the Hart," I told him, "but I promise you he'll never win the Lady Byng."
Crosby did win the Hart Trophy as the NHL's MVP in 2007, but the Lady Byng -- "gentlemanly conduct" is part of the criteria -- shall forever elude him. Even as a teenager, Crosby had just the right mix of sandpaper in his game that ultimately would contribute not only to his survival but also to his success.
Of course, not being Lady Byng-worthy does not disqualify him form being the 2009 Sportsman of the Year.
It was apparent that points -- simple yardsticks for assessing success -- would always be there for the Pittsburgh Penguins center. But from the moment he entered the league post-lockout and joined fellow rookie
This was a different Crosby last spring. Although he has never scored 40 goals in a season -- the one item now missing from his curriculum vitae -- he willed himself into a playoff goal-scorer. He had a playoff-high 15 in the Penguins' 24 games, in addition to 16 assists. Crosby, who had 33 goals during the regular season, became a scorer by going to the dense traffic areas. If you laid all of his 15 goals end to end -- no, this is not a
Crosby didn't win the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP.
In the Game 7 handshake line (to which Crosby was tardy by the Wings' standards), Babcock pumped Crosby's hand and said, "Great leadership."
Babcock chose Crosby.
And I choose Crosby as the Sportsman of the Year.