Sidney Crosby settled into his chair last Friday, gazed at a group of eager reporters, and flashed his patented aw-shucks grin. His plain outfit - white T-shirt, black jeans, comfortable sneakers - matched his tidy mop of hair and scruffy yet short beard. He very much looked like Sid the Kid, only a little older now.
In a stately, unimpeachable kind of way, Crosby is still the NHL's lead ambassador. His play remains elite. His words continue to carry weight. He just happens to be 35 years old and in the middle of his 18th pro season.
At All-Star Weekend in Sunrise, Florida, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain was asked about playoff races, the postseason format, and sharing the ice and a dressing room with longtime frenemy Alex Ovechkin. The conversation eventually turned to 26-year-old Connor McDavid - who surpassed Crosby as the consensus best player on the planet a few seasons ago - then to 17-year-old Connor Bedard.
"I had a chance to skate with him last summer and, yeah, just no weaknesses," Crosby said of Bedard, the next hockey phenom out of Canada. "It's pretty cool to see someone at that age be as dominant as he is."
Survey NHL stars about late-career Crosby and similar responses flow in: It's pretty cool to see someone at that age be as dominant as he is.
"The longevity," Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar said.
"One of the most complete players in the game," said Nathan MacKinnon, Makar's teammate and one of Crosby's closest pals.
"He has that presence when he steps on the ice. You just know he's out there, and there's only three or four guys like that in the entire league," Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said. "He still has that aura."
Added Vegas Golden Knights forward Chandler Stephenson: "He's the captain and the guy you'd want on your team - 10 times out of 10."