Scott Crowell couldn’t believe what was actually happening.
It felt surreal.
There was the 12-year-old, standing in front of the net battling for the puck with Sidney Crosby, who in the eyes of many, is the greatest hockey player in the world.
He is definitely Scott’s idol.
A left wing/centre, Scott says he has been a fan of Crosby’s since he was “six or seven.”
“I want to be like him, all the stuff he does, off ice, on ice,” Scott said.
The living room in the Crowell family’s townhome in Willoughby is a shrine to No. 87, a.k.a. Sid the Kid.
Framed (and signed) paintings of Crosby fill the wall, showing the Pittsburgh Penguins’ superstar centre celebrating goals, Stanley Cup wins, and, with fierce determination etched on his face, watching the play unfold.
So when Scott shared the ice with Crosby at the Sidney Crosby Hockey School July 10 to 14 at Cole Harbour Place in Cole Harbour, NS, he couldn’t take his eyes off the 29-year-old centre, who was coming off his second consecutive Stanley Cup victory with the Pens.
Designed for boys and girls ages nine to 12, the hockey camp included on-ice skill development, dry-land and other off-ice activities, and special guest presentations.
This camp isn’t about finding the next Crosby, per se, or moulding the perfect hockey player.
In fact, it was Scott’s imperfections, his challenges — and his dogged determination to overcome them — that helped gain him entry into the prestigious camp.
So prestigious, in fact, that among the more than 10,000 applicants world-wide, only 160 players were selected.
Players and their families travelled from as far away as Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, Israel, and England to take part.
“We’ve been trying for the last three years to get him in,” Scott’s mom Chantal said. “You have to write an essay as to why they should choose you.”
“The essay has a lot to do with it,” his dad Chris added. “They ask, ‘Why do you feel that we should pick you to come to this camp?”
The Crowells’ essay noted that Scott has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and was recently diagnosed with developmental coordination disorder (DCD).
“He was diagnosed (with DCD) last May, which answers questions dating back to when he was a baby,” Chantal shared. “His motor skills don’t function normally like other people. He was almost two before he walked, it took us three years to get him to learn how to skate.
“Overcoming all that and being able to play hockey like a normal child, has been major. So we kind of played on that in his application, as to why they should choose him.”
Even tying shoes is difficult for Scott, his dad noted.
“He had trouble tying his skates,” Chris continued. “I said to him, ‘I guarantee it, they are going to teach you how to tie your skates.’ The second day (of the camp) he comes out all wobbly and I’m like, ‘What’s going on with your skates?’”
Scott told Chris, “I tied my skates for the first time. They showed me how to do it.”
“The whole week, he tied his skates the whole time,” Chris said. “When I told my wife that, we kinda shared a little bit of a sappy moment, because even just something like that, you wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but the day-to-day functions of how to hold a fork properly and how to cut with a knife, he struggled with that.”
Scott wasn’t going to let these challenges get in the way of playing a sport that he and his family are so passionate about.
This past season, Scott played peewee hockey at the house level, travelling with his Langley Eagles teammates to tournaments in Kelowna, Surrey, and Cloverdale.
During the camp, surrounded by the people closest to Crosby, Chris was as star-struck as his son.
“The only people involved with the hockey camp are his parents, Troy and Trina Crosby, people Sid grew up with — some of Sid’s oldest friends were Scott’s group leaders — relatives, or close associations,” Chris said.
The first day was rough. When Chris picked Scott up at the rink after the first day, his son stood next to Crosby’s sister, Taylor.
“Scott has had quite the day,” she told Chris. “He lost a tooth which we had to pull out during lunch and he bruised his toe, and he was noticeably limping. We’re really concerned about his health; we don’t want him to miss out on anything, and if he’s not good to go tomorrow, he’ll have to sit out and not participate.”
Scott pressed on, and had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to receive some personal advice and instruction from Crosby.
For example, Crosby offered Scott advice about the length of his stick (Crosby believes a stick should only reach as high as a player’s collarbone, because playing with a shorter stick forces players into better skating habits, most importantly a low knee bend).
“The first thing Sidney noticed when he got to Scott was the length of his stick,” Chris said. “Scott explained to him why he likes a longer stick because he likes to range in the corners and dig out pucks… for me, this was the first interaction he had on his first day.”
Scott related the conversation he had with his hockey hero: “I also told him how much of a huge fan I was, I was talking about some of the drills, responding back to him and all that stuff… he said to me stuff like, ‘try on your backhand.’”
Regardless of where his hockey aspirations take him, memories of the camp will last a lifetime for Scott, who is trying out for rep hockey next season.
“It was unbelievable. Being on the ice with him was like a lifelong dream. Probably going to play against him in a couple of years is going to be even better,” he said with a grin. “But being on the ice with him a little early is unbelievable.”