Mario Lemieux Speaks. Everyone Listens.
By Buddy OakesMario Lemieux appeared in a hastily called presser after the Cap-Pens Alumni game just before the Winter Classic and covered a range of topics.
On the ice at Heinz field: "The ice was great. A couple of times in the neutral zone, it puddled but they came out and fixed it."
On Sidney Crosby: "He's been incredible this year. Since he's come into the league, he's gotten better every year. He is an incredible player. What he did this year with 25 games with points is hard to do, in this day and age.
"It's not the same as it was 20 years ago with good goalies and defencemen. It's impressive what he's been able to do. His work ethic is the best in the world. That's why he is the best in the world."
On Crosby's dominating the game: "I think so. I think it's much tougher now to dominate the way the league is set up and for him to go out there and do the things he does every night, every shift is incredible.
"His strength, his skating ability, his shooting ability has gotten better in the last couple of years. What he's doing now is much more impressive."
On concerns of getting the game in on Saturday: "It doesn't look good but it can change. Hopefully, we can get it in tomorrow. It would be a shame with all the excitement leading up until tomorrow. The weather has been perfect, up until tomorrow. It's been beautiful the last couple of weeks."
On hosting the Winter Classic: "It's exiting for the franchise, the players and of course for the fans who have been supporting us throughout my career. Anytime you can host a Winter Classic in your own city it's very special.
"We've come a long way for a team that struggled for many years when we weren't able to compete at the level we wanted to. The new CBA allowed us to put a great product on the ice."
Comparing Crosby and Ovechkin to Lemieux and Gretzky: "I think they have two different styles like Gretzky and myself. Of course, Ovechkin is very physical and has a great shot. Sid is more controlling the play and using his strength. It's a little bit different than Gretzky's finesse, making plays and curling to buy some time. Two different styles and two different eras."
On promoting the game: "Gretz did a lot promoting the game. He was a real ambassador. I think Ovechkin and Sid do everything they can to promote the game."
On Crosby being the focus of other teams: "I don't think he worries too much about the opposition. It's all about his game, his preparation for the game. He thinks about hockey 24 hours a day.
"His work ethic, preparing himself, doing the same thing every day. I don't think what the opposition does really bothers him. He goes on the ice and knows what he has to do and tries to do it every shift."
On not being surprised that he put the string together: "No, it was just a matter of time. He's always had the ability to do pretty much what ever he wants out there when he put's he mind to it so I'm not surprised that he has had this success."