He was The Next One.
Sidney Crosby was a baby-faced 14-year-old wunderkind when he skated with the Dartmouth Subways at the 2002 Air Canada Cup, Canada’s National Midget
Championship, in Bathurst, N.B.
Despite playing against players four years his senior, Crosby thrived in Bathurst, leading Dartmouth to a silver medal, the best finish ever for an
Atlantic Region entry at the national championship.
The Cole Harbour, N.S., native was much more than a blip on the hockey radar when he arrived on New Brunswick’s north shore 14 years ago. He was a force to
be reckoned with, destined to be a first-overall draft pick and future NHL star.
After all, the term The Next One is bestowed upon players rather judiciously.
“We knew who he was,” recalled Shawn Wood, head coach of the Miramichi Rivermen, the host club in the six-team tournament in 2002. “He was a really special
player. You could tell that then, so that was pretty neat to see him.
“There was nothing like him. He was special.”
Crosby steamrolled his way through the tournament. He was the leading scorer with 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in seven games, and was an obvious
choice as Most Valuable Player. He racked up five points in a tournament-opening win over the Rivermen, and had six in a loss to the Red Deer Chiefs.
In total, the Subways scored 30 goals in the tournament, and Crosby was in on 24 of them.
Despite his prowess, though, the Subways couldn’t make it to the top of the podium, falling 6-2 to the Tisdale Trojans from Saskatchewan in the gold medal
“Even at such a young age, two things were obvious: one, how dominant of a hockey player he was, and two, how poised he was both on and off the ice,” said
veteran reporter Peter Assaff, who has been covering sports in the Bathurst region for decades.
“This was a kid who was media savvy and easy to talk to. You could also tell how focused and driven he was. He was the guy to watch.”
The Rivermen struggled at the national championship, posting a record of 0-5.
“No matter what you do, any system you play, it comes down to one-on-one play somewhere on the ice and we just couldn’t contain him at all,” Wood recalled.
Wood later coached Sean Couturier, who will go up against Crosby at this year’s World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. He recognized right away that Crosby was
the complete package.
“His teammates weren’t jealous of him, the coaching staff wasn’t intimidated by him. His maturity was evident, too, as we watched how he carried himself,”
“He was hounded by photographers, the news media, and kids the whole time he was up there. To me that was more impressive, how he handled himself off the
ice, rather than what he did on the ice.”
That’s a legacy Crosby carries to this day. The Pittsburgh Penguins star is without question one of the marquee names in the National Hockey League. His
face is ubiquitous in the league’s marketing material.
Crosby notched the Golden Goal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. He excitedly yelled “Iggy” to draw the attention of linemate Jarome Iginla, who gave him
the puck, which Crosby quickly snapped past U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller, a goal which rivals that of Paul Henderson’s 1972 Summit Series winner in Canadian
Crosby is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in the world. One could argue the seeds of his success were planted in Bathurst.
“There were some good players on that team, but really, everything that Dartmouth did revolved around Sidney Crosby. He was the focus of their team,”
“It was an exciting time in Bathurst. It was a test event for the 2003 Canada Winter Games. There was a lot of excitement around everything that was going
on. It was a big event. People were excited about it, no question.”
The 2016 TELUS Cup is the first Hockey Canada championship held in New Brunswick since the Bathurst event in 2002. It’s a coup for Quispamsis.
Over the years, many other future NHLers have played in the TELUS Cup, including Steve Yzerman, Simon Gagne, and New Brunswickers Randy Jones, Don Sweeney,
Scott Fraser and Scott Pellerin.
In addition to Crosby, the Rivermen also competed against Guillaume Latendresse and Torrey Mitchell, each of whom has played more than 300 games in the NHL
since their week in Bathurst.
“It was a great experience for our kids,” Wood said. “Anyone in your area should be excited to have that tournament there. It’s a showcase tournament in
Canada and you never know who you’re going to see.”