Sidney Crosby is off to the slowest start to a season in his career. With just 6 points (2 goals and 4 assists) in his first twelve games there has been quite a bit of talk surrounding 87’s point totals. Reactions have ranged from people being hypercritical of the Penguins prolific captain to people defending him just as fiercely to some even wondering if the captain is playing through an injury. But the real answer to the slow start may be much simpler than that.
Flip the calendar back a few months for what’s most likely causing Crosby’s early unease – complete wardrobe and equipment change. This summer Reebok, the company Sidney Crosby first joined forces with as a fresh-faced 17 year-old, made seismic changes and everything Crosby’s known for eleven years changed.
Since his NHL debut in 2004, Canada’s captain has been the face of the RBK Hockey line. From his Reebok skates that were made available to anyone wanting them at retailers like Canadian Tire and Dick’s Sporting goods to the basic black tennis shoes he wore on any jaunt around town. Sidney Crosby was Reebok and Reebok was built, largely on the shoulders and successes of him and guys like him. Reebok was the name etched into the back of NHL jerseys and written on pads of goalies and players helmets everywhere. Until last summer.
In the summer of 2015 Reebok shifted all of their hockey equipment lines to the CCM brand name and re-branded them. This was first noticeable when Marc-Andre Fleury’s new pads were publicized with a CCM logo and internet readers from Laval to Helsinki asked if Fleury had changed allegiances. No, they were assured Reebok hockey equipment was now CCM. Anyone who had been a spokesman for the RBK Hockey line was now part of the CCM family. But that was not the only change. A few weeks later Crosby, who has never worn anything other than Reebok gear outside of the Olympics, was announced as an Adidas athlete.
Wait, what? That’s right. Sidney Crosby got a complete wardrobe makeover in the summer of 2015.
Now, to most people this would be exciting. Who doesn’t want new shoes and skates and sticks? Well, the man who hasn’t changed his jockstrap since he was 16 might not, that’s for sure. Sidney Crosby loves a lot of things like shooting on net and skating down the ice, but change? He’ll be the first to tell you he doesn’t really love change. From his ride to the rink to his pregame stretches Sidney has done the same routines as far back as anyone can remember. Then in one fell swoop the entire foundation of his game changes as the single most important thing to a hockey player, their equipment, was completely swapped out.
Now of course it’s not like Crosby has to pick up any old pair of skates off the shelves of his local sporting goods store. He has them made to his exact specifications, but it’s still a slightly different product. I have a new car made exactly how I want it, but it’s still a new car and even though I’ve been driving it for nine months now, I still forget the gas tank is on the other side of the car. It’s not a problem so much as an adjustment. And when it comes to not liking changes? Crosby certainly isn’t alone in the NHL.
Just last year “The Hockey News” ran this piece on then-Capital Mike Green and his love for a defunct hockey stick. The offensive defenseman loved and used every twig until Easton not only discontinued them, but ran out of their back-stores. Brendan Shanahan did the same thing with aluminum body sticks during his playing career. Teemu Selanne still wore old Jofa helmets until the day he retired from the NHL, despite the fact that they were no longer made any more. NHL players are picky. Their gear is their gear and they like it. So naturally a man who isn’t big on change in the first place isn’t going to just jump into a completely new wardrobe and set of hockey gear like its nothing.
This isn’t a bad thing either. Crosby did ultimately get the choice in his new gear. He could have had any gear he wanted, but he chose the CCM and Adidas brands. It’s still like breaking in a new pair of shoes, though. You start to think about things you didn’t before, like how they rub your toes or how your feet rest when they’re idle on the floor. You have to find the right skates and find the right stick for you. It might sound blown out of proportion, but for someone who hasn’t had to make a wholesale change like this in over a decade, it’s a big deal. And over time it won’t matter in the slightest once Crosby matches his likes and dislikes to the new gear, but right now the captain is still settling in. Once he’s comfortable he’ll be putting his monster numbers back on the board and until then everyone, including 87 himself, has just got to be patient.