Sidney Crosby has been honored in many different ways his entire career. He has trophies, medals, Stanley Cups and more to show how great of a player he is. But Friday night in Rimouski, Quebec, Canada, Crosby received one of the greatest honors a player can receive.
Originally told just his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) team, Rimouski Oceanic, would retire his No. 87 jersey, he was surprised to find out the entire QMJHL would retire his number. Fans cheered and cheered as Crosby’s number was raised to the rafters by Oceanic. The ovation lasted so long, a normally composed Crosby was overcome with emotion for the reportedly six- to eight-minute standing ovation before he gave his speech. One of the most dominant players in QMJHL history, it is easy to see why his number was retired league-wide.
Drafted First Overall and Debut Season
Crosby was selected by Oceanic with the first overall pick in the 2003 Midget Draft. His first preseason game was not long after the draft and he tallied eight points, setting the tone for an incredible two-year run in the QMJHL. He won nine player of the week awards and three player of the month awards in his rookie season. He finished the season with 51 goals and 81 assists for a total of 135 points, third-most all-time for a rookie in the QMJHL. Upon the conclusion of the 2003-04 season, he became the first player in league history to win all three major awards at once for points scored, rookie of the year and league MVP.
Perhaps the greatest goal of his Oceanic career came in his rookie season. At the 17-second mark of the above video, the lacrosse style goal became iconic when talking about Crosby and his time as a junior. To this day, that goal still makes his highlight reel. This also further propelled him into discussions to be the top pick when he became draft-eligible after a second season.
The Draft Season
The world of hockey was fixated on Crosby being the first overall pick in the 2005 NHL Draft. His rookie season was one of the best of all time. But he still had more to prove. And that he did. After passing up a three year, $7.5 million contract from the World Hockey Association, a proposed potential rival to the NHL, he dominated the league again.
This time, he had 66 goals and 102 assists to beat his previous year’s point total by 33. He also led Oceanic to a 28-game unbeaten run and later winning the President’s Cup as QMJHL champions. Despite losing in the final of the 2005 Memorial Cup, he was still named to the tournament all-star team and led the tournament in points with 11 points over five games. He became the eighth player in QMJHL history be selected first overall in the 2005 NHL Draft when the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted him.
Furthering the Game in Rimouski
Crosby continues to have a strong connection with the city of Rimouski. He fully embraced moving from his hometown of Halifax where only English is spoken by roughly 87% (weird coincidence) of the town to a French-speaking city, something that isn’t normal for a young teenager. When young junior players are hesitant about whether or not to join Oceanic, he has reached out to those players to try and convince them to sign for the team. In an interview with The Chronicle Herald, Oceanic head coach and general manager Serge Beausoleil had this to say about Crosby and another former player Brad Richards:
“The way they played and the way they became huge players in the NHL – not just top players, but huge players in the show – of course we believe that playing in Rimouski can be good for any hockey player.”source – ‘Palov: Oceanic to retire Crosby’s jersey on Friday’- The Chronicle Herald– Willy Palov- 09/25/2019
After winning his third Stanley Cup, in 2017 when it was his turn to have his day with the cup, he took it back to Rimouski. A city of roughly 50,000 clearly still has a place in his heart as he paraded the trophy around the city. People came from everyone to have their picture taken with Crosby and the trophy.
Second in Oceanic’s history for points scored with 303 and best with 2.504 points per game, it was only a matter of time until Crosby’s number was retired by his junior team. But to be the first player in QMJHL history to have his number retired league-wide, that is special. That is Gretzky status.
Crosby spoke about how honored he was that his junior team wanted to retire his number and that he didn’t see the league-wide retirement coming. Overwhelmed, Crosby thanked everyone he possibly could in his speech to the capacity crowd. The number 87 will be officially retired by the QMJHL at the start of the 2020-21 season. There is every indication that this will not be the last time his number will be retired by a team. When he does hang up his skates, you can bet the Pittsburgh Penguins will be doing the same thing.