Forward Taylor Hall (centre) celebrates with Team Canada teammates, forward Sidney Crosby (left) and forward Jordan Eberle (right) after scoring a goal during the semi-final match against the Czech Republic at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships on May 16, 2015 in Prague.JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP/GETTY IMAGES
It was back in May when Jordan Eberle was last on the ice with Sidney Crosby, playing on his wing rather than across the way, as was the case on Friday when the Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Penguins met at Rexall Place.
Eberle, as well as Oilers teammate Taylor Hall, learned some valuable lessons when they teamed up with Crosby to help propel Canada to a gold medal run at the world hockey championship.
“When you get a chance to play with maybe the best player in the world, and you’re creating chemistry, you gain the confidence that you can play at the highest level and be one of the best players. I want to try and use that confidence we gained there playing with him,” said Eberle, before heading out for his first game of this National Hockey League season. His start was delayed 13 games because of a shoulder injury.
Hall and Eberle had the chance to study Crosby’s ways, while Oilers bench boss Todd McLellan, who coached that Canadian team to gold, drew something from the Penguins centre too. McLellan picked Crosby’s brain about his early days in the league to better prepare himself for the arrival of Connor McDavid.
“He’s a remarkable individual with the way he can carry himself and get people to follow him,” said McLellan. “His skill set is obviously second to none.”
Crosby said on Friday that it wasn’t so much that he was dispensing advice during those conversations with McLellan, but that he was just recalling his challenges of being tabbed a generational player at 18 years of age. They talked about managing the off-ice demands with the expectations, about remembering that as a player who is just 18, that one needs to enjoy all the things one wants to enjoy.
“I think Todd’s approach was just to kind of bounce ideas off me and see what went through my head at that age,” said Crosby.
Crosby was drafted first overall by the Penguins in 2005 and has gone on to win the league’s scoring title, two Olympic gold medals and the Stanley Cup.
“He’s an amazing player. A great leader, a guy who comes to play every night,” said Hall. “I think you can see that. He just brings it every shift.
“He forces everyone on the team, on his line, to raise their level. That’s why he’s a Stanley Cup champion,” Hall continued. “That’s why he’s had so much success at the international level. Really fun experience playing with him.”
The chance to see McDavid and Crosby at Rexall was postponed after the rookie crashed into the end boards and fractured his left clavicle. The Penguins captain sent a text to McDavid the night of the injury.
“One of the best things about playing in the NHL, is playing against the best players in the world, seeing what they can do,” said Hall.
Playing with the best players in the world has its benefits too.
Eberle said his time at the tournament went a long way to numbing the sting from all the losing he had endured in Edmonton, and that his time with Crosby made him a more confident player.
“More than anything, it was his off-ice habits; what kind of guy he is, how hard he works,” said Eberle. “Seeing what his off-ice habits are, and how hard he works in practice … I want to bring that back here.”