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The Crosby Chronicles

It's all Sidney, all the time for one Toronto reporter

Posted: Friday October 7, 2005 11:18AM; Updated: Saturday October 15, 2005 6:15PM
Sidney Crosby
As the NHL's celebrated rookie, Crosby will receive plenty of media attention this season.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The British Virgin Islands offers calypso festivals, white sandy beaches and water so blue it would cheer up Miles Davis. What it does not offer is a single reminder of the NHL.

But deep in the subtropical Caribbean, in the midst of a vacation from covering fishing boat accidents, hurricanes and other assorted news in bone-cold Halifax, Shawna Richer received the go-ahead during the summer for what could be the most interesting assignment of the year in sports journalism -- wall-to-wall coverage of Penguins rookie phenom Sidney Crosby.

Crosby arrives in the U.S. at a time where interest in the NHL has plummeted to record lows. But in Canada, even with the loss of the entire 2004-05 season, the sport remains embedded into the collective soul of a nation.

That's why Richer, a 38-year-old reporter for The Globe and Mail in Toronto, gave up her apartment in Halifax, procured a B-1 visa to work in the U.S., and has rented a one-bedroom flat in Pittsburgh. It is why her stories on Crosby appear not on the front of the sports section but on A-1 of The Globe and Mail, one of Canada's bigger newspapers.

"If we really wanted to penetrate the life and times of a great player, and through him understand hockey as a sport, social and cultural phenomenon and business, we had to be there for all those serendipitous moments of meaning," says Edward Greenspon, the editor-in chief of The Globe and Mail. "If we were going to commit to this, we wanted to commit fully."

So they have. For the next eight months, Richer will chronicle the life and times of Crosby. The project is called The Rookie, dubbed as such for the NHL's most heralded prospect since Wayne Gretzky. Richer will write about Crosby two or three times a week in the paper, and blog on a near-daily basis.

"In a sense, sports and entertainment go together and more news about Sidney or a particular player is good for the game," says Pat Brisson, Crosby's IMG agent. "I think it's great and I view it this way: It's outstanding that a paper committed to do this. As long as Sidney has enough room to rest and recharge his batteries, I am fine with it."

It's an interesting career detour for Richer. For the past three years, she has been based in Halifax as the paper's Atlantic Canada bureau chief, where she was more apt to report on humpback whales than the San Jose Sharks.

While glued to the radio coverage of the NHL's draft lottery, in which Crosby was the top prize, Richer got the idea of chronicling Crosby's first season as a pro and e-mailed her thoughts to the appropriate editors. It didn't take long to receive the go-ahead.

"The first thing I did was e-mail the Penguins' media relations people to tell them what I was planning," she says. "I was surprised: They were intrigued by the idea and really keen on it."