Sidney Crosby’s rookie season: Part 1, Crosbymania

By Simon Richard

Will Nikolai Zherdev complete this season

On February 20th,
3622 fans filled the old Marcel-Dionne Coliseum in Drummondville for the visit
of Rimouski Oceanic and young phenomenon Sidney Crosby. It was by far
the biggest attendance of the season on the home ice of the QMJHL Drummondville
Voltigeurs, who are used to playing before an average crowd of 1500. 



on the attendance


The interest of the
Drummondville fans is not exceptional. Indeed, each of the teams visited by
Crosby and his teammates have recorded the season’s best attendance. The
increase is usually much more than 100 percent. The Victoriaville Tigres even
added 350 seats when Rimouski visited on January 29th.


On February 17th,
there were 15,333 fans in the sold out Pepsi Quebec Coliseum to see the young
superstar. This attendance may be the highest total reached for a hockey game
outside the NHL during the 2003-04 season, all pro and minor leagues included
around the world. Indeed, there are many teams in the NHL who would like to
have that many visitors, especially on a weekday match up.


There were less than 4200
people in the stands when Quebec Remparts played their previous home game on
February 7th. It was a Saturday. The previous game played on weekday
was on January 15th and only 2650 fans came in to watch their team
against Halifax. The total of fans in Quebec for the three appearances of
Crosby this season is close to 42,000. That means hundreds of thousands of
dollars for the Quebec Remparts owners, who include former NHLer Patrick Roy.



The fan and media interest
for Crosby is simply amazing. Crosby’s charisma off the ice and awesome
offensive production and creativity on the ice helps to build this interest.
the game against the Quebec Remparts last October, when he used the blade of
his stick to spoon the puck behind the net to place it top corner in a
lacrosse-style behind the goalie. This move was seen on TV across North America
and TSN selected that play as the play of the year on its annual highlight


“[The interest] is big,
it is very big,” commented Rimouski Oceanic Hockey Operations Assistant
Yannick Dumais about the media interest about Crosby. “There have been 60
special features made on Crosby since last September,” added Dumais prior
to the beginning of the game in Drummondville. Not only the Quebec and Canadian
media want to feature Crosby but also American ones, like Sports Illustrated,
HBO and the Boston Herald who requested special interviews with the young
junior superstar.


The interest of the media for
Crosby is so huge that the Rimouski organization decided to make Crosby
available before road games in every city they visited for the first time.


On February 20th
in Drummondville, there were about 15 media representatives including TV
broadcasters like Global, RDS, TQS and RDI. Most NHL teams don’t have as many
TV crews for a regular game. 


Yannick Dumais, whose duties
include relations with the media, stressed that all those activities are not
difficult to live with because Crosby is very mature for his age and
understands very well that dealing with the media is part of the job of a
hockey player. “As he is open to this aspect of the job, it is much easier
for us,” commented Dumais in Drummondville.



Crosby brilliantly prepared
the third goal of his team in Drummondville that night. When his assist was
announced by the Coliseum, Crosby got clearly applauded by the fans. After the
game, after he was named the Third Star of the Game applause was even more
generous for him.


Mr. Dumais told us it is like
that everywhere Crosby plays. He recalled the game played in the first week of
February in Gatineau against the Olympics, the third CHL top seeded team.
Gatineau won 8-6 but Crosby had one goal and five assists.


“When the announcer
named Crosby the First Star of the Game, people got up to their feet in the
arena and applauded him,” commented Dumais.


The night before that game in
Drummondville, Rimouski played in Lewiston, Maine. Rimouski Coach and former
NHLer Donald Dufresne, told us that as soon the team’s bus crossed the boarder
on his way to Drummondville, there were cars following the bus honking,
obviously cheering for Crosby.


“Even when the bus
entered the town of Drummondville, some cars did it too, it is amazing,”
said Dufresne after the 5-2 win of his team over the Voltigeurs.      


After the game, we asked to
Crosby how he feels about that interest from the media and the fans across the
league. “People want to see me and that is fine with me,” he
answered. “I enjoy that, it is great for me, great for the league and
great for everyone,” he added, underlining he takes it as a compliment. And
about the cheers? “You generally expect the boos in the other team’s
building, so that is nice for sure to get some cheers,” Crosby said. 


Former NHLers René Robert and
Yvon Lambert were in the Marcel-Dionne Colisee as well as the Hall of Famer who
gave his name to the rink. Marcel Dionne noticed that “Sidney Crosby is a
very good thing for the hockey right now because this sport is passing through
a difficult period, like the possibility of a lock-out.” 



Richard is the author of La Serie du siecle, Septembre 1972, a book about
the Summit Series published in 2002.