Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby

Breaking up is hard; ‘Brothers’ Crosby, Malkin, Letang Reflect

Do you remember? It was February 20, 2021, the night of Sidney Crosby 1000’s major milestone.and game, without fans in the stands due to COVID-19, and the star Pittsburgh Penguins center standing on the ice as longtime teammates Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang presented him with a forged silver stick and a mosaic made up photos from each of his first 999 games as part of a pre-game ceremony.

You could see their eyes. They were foggy. Crosby later even laughed that just looking at himself made it impossible to keep his eyes dry.

It was therefore not a night to think about what it will be like when the team captain and his two assistant captains learn that they will all no longer be members of the Penguins. It will probably be a private moment. They might even share this moment through something as normally impersonal as a text due to the distance during the summer.

But you can imagine the mist will lift again.

And if you’ve been paying attention, you can imagine that could very well happen this offseason, with Malkin, a center, and Letang, a defenseman, awaiting unrestricted free agents and possibly headed elsewhere.

For 16 seasons they were teammates with the Penguins – the longest three-player streak with the same team in NHL history, and one of the most productive streaks, with three Stanley Cups and plenty of other equipment .

Nova Scotia’s Crosby had already been in the NHL for a year and was already rising to a longtime unofficial ambassadorship as the face of the league, if not the sport, when Malkin, who is Russian, and Letang, who is French-Canadian, made his debut for the Penguins in 2006-07.

Letang’s English was a bit sketchy. Malkin’s was almost non-existent. But they began to bond over their common language, hockey.

On Tuesday, the three – Crosby, 34, Letang and Malkin, 35 – may have had their last chance to speak publicly about what they mean to each other while still teammates.

Letang reflected on the early days.

“Having the chance to play against him in the Quebec League, (Crosby) has always been a role model,” Letang said of their days as junior hockey opponents. “Even though he was the same age it was like he did everything perfectly, how focused he was and the dedication he puts into hockey is just amazing. So having him by my side and ‘Geno’ is a treat for us.

“And Geno, I’ve seen him grow as a player and as a person. We all know how good he was, and everything he’s achieved throughout his career is just amazing, but seeing the start of Geno, not speaking a word of English and after that being a joking guy, having him more with the guys For dinner.

“We kind of grew up all together. You learn so much more when you spend so much time with these guys.

To the point where now they can almost finish each other’s sentences as easily as they finish playing together.

Malkin, aka Geno, was both funny and poignant when talking about the three of them.

“It’s amazing. It’s like my two brothers, a Canadian and a French Canadian. I love them both,” Malkin said.

“It’s not just hockey; that’s life. We spend so much time together. We know each other quite well. »

Hearing the Malkin brothers’ comment, Crosby laughed, then thought.

“I think we all feel the same way,” Crosby said. “We had the chance to play together for a long time, we went through a lot. I think (when) you look at all these experiences, there’s a lot of belief, a lot of trust in each other. With this we also had success. So I think there is also a level of trust. It’s very rare, and I think we all appreciate it.

“That being said, we understand that it’s not something that can happen forever, but hopefully for a bit longer. Hopefully we continue to play together. It’s unique. It’s special And, like I said, I think we did a good job as a group and as a team, so hopefully that plays out too.

Three brothers. Three brothers. three brothers.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan can hardly separate the three when he thinks about their impact. He was asked about Malkin and Letang – after all, Crosby has three years left on his contract – but Sullivan instinctively shaped his answer around the three in one of his many soliloquies about his stars and executives.

“It’s hard for me to express what these guys mean to the Pittsburgh Penguins organization,” Sullivan said. “When you look at the legacy that’s been built here over the past 16 years, those three guys are the cornerstone of that excellence. There’s probably a reason these three guys have played for the same organization for as long as they have. From my perspective, they are the ones who set the standard for what it means to be a Pittsburgh Penguin. They are the ones who built the culture of excellence that has been created here in Pittsburgh and that we have all enjoyed over the past 16 years during their careers here.

“I can’t say enough about these guys and their drive, their desire to win, their love for the Pittsburgh Penguins and their teammates. They are the standard, to me, of what it means to be a Pittsburgh Penguin, and they are the guys who put in the hard work day in and day out that has brought this organization to the level of success it has had at their time. »

Sullivan, who has coached the Penguins since December 2015 and led them to two Stanley Cups, is not negotiating contracts but is expected to be part of the conversation with management when the Penguins rank their priorities for any off-season movement.

It looks like it will be almost as hard as a parent having to choose among their children.

“Well, it’s hard. You know, it’s hard,” Sullivan said, her head bowed and sounding close to emotional. “It’s my job to coach these guys, and we care about them a lot. We build relationships over the years.

He noted that considering them as team assets in team decisions is “I guess a necessary part of the business, but it’s hard. These guys have been very important players for us. Their work speaks for itself. It’s my job to share my opinions, and I do so when asked.

They are three. Will they be two at training camp? A?

Crosby isn’t normally one to be overly contemplative or nostalgic, but this situation imposes these things on him. He’s seen friends and teammates come and go for most of his life.

It was never like this, with Malkin and Letang involved.

“Yeah, it’s different just because we’re getting older and there’s so much history,” Crosby said. “I think…you’re thinking a little more because it’s something we’ve had to talk about and think about all year.

“It’s not easy. I think it’s amazing how these guys were able to put that aside and continue playing the way they did. It’s never easy when you’re going through this.

“It’s the reality and it’s part of the business, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy either.”

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