Pittsburgh Penguins bonding in Halifax ahead of pre-season NHL game

Click to play video: 'Sidney Crosby returns to Nova Scotia for pre-season game'
Sidney Crosby returns to Nova Scotia for pre-season game
WATCH: Sidney Crosby returns to Nova Scotia for pre-season game – Oct 1, 2023

Sidney Crosby isn’t the only one feeling the hometown love this weekend as his Pittsburgh Penguins teammates make themselves comfortable in Halifax ahead of their pre-season game against the Ottawa Senators on Monday at the city’s Scotiabank Centre.

Posts from the team’s official account on X showcased a group of players, including the likes of hockey superstar Evgeni Malkin, celebrating on the Halifax waterfront as they wrapped up a scavenger hunt that was part of a team bonding exercise.

The crew was also pictured alongside the landmark statue of Alexander Keith holding a beer mug outside of the famous brewery.

Click to play video: 'Pittsburgh Penguins bonding in Halifax ahead of pre-season game'
Pittsburgh Penguins bonding in Halifax ahead of pre-season game

The Links at Burello golf course in Timberlea, which hosted the Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship in 2019, also played host to several Penguins players as they hit the greens on Saturday.

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According to an article on the Penguins’ website, the course selection was made by Ryan Graves, one of the Penguin’s newest signings, who’s experiencing a Nova Scotian homecoming this weekend as well.

Graves, who signed a six-year, $27-million contract with the Penguins in July, was born and raised a few hours outside of Halifax in the town of Yarmouth.

“The opportunity to play in your home province isn’t going to come along very often,” the defenceman said in a separate release.

The Penguins touched down in the Maritimes on Friday evening. A video posted online of the crew stepping off their plane offered a glimpse into how satisfied Cole Harbour native Sidney Crosby appeared to be after returning to where he first started developing his game.

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To little surprise, most of the local attention leading up to the sold-out pre-season fixture will be surrounding Crosby — as hockey fans and curious spectators alike lined up outside of the Cole Harbour Place on Sunday morning to watch “Sid the Kid” practice alongside his Penguins teammates.

According to a post from the team’s reporter, fans started lining up as early as 6:00 a.m., waiting nearly five hours before the practice kicked off at 11 a.m.

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Young fans lined the arena’s front row, chanting “Crosby, Crosby” as they held out their hands to receive high-fives from the three-time Stanley Cup champion as he walked out onto the ice.

Following the scheduled practice, Crosby and the other Penguins players remained on the ice to spearhead a youth hockey clinic with some local players from the area.

During a media availability following the practice, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain expressed his enthusiasm for returning to Halifax, saying that he “never expected to have an opportunity” to play another professional game in his hometown.

“Playing the game is great but to be able to show guys around, have my family here, have them interact with everyone … they were pretty pumped when they heard we’d be coming here,” Crosby said in a Cole Harbour Place locker room, as support from the stands echoed in the background.

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He said that he hopes his success story, alongside the likes of other Nova Scotian hockey stars such as Nathan Mackinnon and Brad Marchand, serves as encouragement for the next generation of aspiring players from the area.

“Hopefully it gives them belief that, even though you’re from a small town, you can (still) make it,” Crosby said as he cited several Nova Scotian hockey stars that inspired him in his younger years, including former NHLers Al Macinnis and Cam Russell.

“They were all guys from Nova Scotia that you thought ‘Hey, if they made it then I can too’ and hopefully we can provide that for kids.”

Despite Monday night only being an exhibition, Crosby said that doesn’t mean the game will be any less competitive as several young players will be looking to make their case for a permanent roster spot with the NHL’s regular season approaching.

“It’s part of training camp too so as much as you’re trying to have fun, we’re also trying to get ready,” he said.

“There’s guys here competing for spots, so I think you try to enjoy it … but also understand that you’re still getting ready for the season.”

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The significance of playing at the Scotiabank Centre for Crosby goes beyond the fact that it’s a stone’s throw away from where he grew up — it’s also where he lifted his first career trophy after leading the Rimouski Oceanic to a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League championship in 2005.

Tickets to the pre-season game, dubbed the Nova Scotia Showdown, sold out shortly after going on sale to the general public on July 18.

The puck will drop at 7 p.m. in front of an estimated 11,000 eager fans on Monday night.

— with files from Global News’ Vanessa Wright

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