Judge Mike Rubino's wounds from losing the Stanley Cup last year have been re-opened by this DVD!
"Hop in the Cordoba baby, we're going dancing with Lord Stanley!"
In the three years that he's been in the NHL, Sidney Crosby was not only christened the official spokesperson for the entire sport, he also became a very large pillar within the community of Pittsburgh. Being both a Pittsburgher and a lifelong Penguins fan (full disclosure), I'm obviously approaching this DVD from a different perspective than, say, a Red Wings fan. But in the most objective sense, I can say that Sidney Crosby: On the Ice and Beyond is an honest, well-produced, look at one of the league's best.
I can't recall too many instances where a national sports league has released a video about a team or player who lost the championship; however, the story of Crosby's third season with the Pittsburgh Penguins proves to be too interesting to pass up. His personal story, filled with works of charity and humility, set against the rugged, blue collar setting of the Steel City, is interesting enough—of course, the hockey is the real reason you're tuning in.
Going into the third season, after losing in the first round of the playoffs the previous year, expectations were through the roof for the Pens. USA Today and a number of other publications predicted them to win the Stanley Cup from the start of the season. Things didn't turn out to be so easy for the team: they were plagued by injuries (including multiple instances of the dreaded high-ankle sprain), their division was extremely competitive, and teams placed Crosby at the center of their crosshairs. Despite all the set backs, the Penguins still made it to the Stanley Cup finals only to lose in Game 6 to the Red Wings. This is the season that serves as the backdrop of the DVD, stepping into the spotlight from time to time to highlight specific games.
That said, Sidney Crosby isn't just a highlight reel from last season. It's a stranger bird, that waivers between a pseudo-autobiography (portions of the video are narrated by Crosby) and a narrative about an ever-evolving team (and sport, for that matter). The story unfolds chronologically, devoting a few minutes to the history of the Penguins and Mario Lemieux as well as the 2005 NHL draft, and then diving into Crosby's third season. The majority of the focus is on Crosby's off-ice life: his training, his day-to-day lifestyle, his charity efforts, etc. For being 20 years old, he's incredibly humble and kind, and the video does a great job taking the audience into his world. Despite the occasionally stiff narration, Crosby's character shines through, like when he refers to his teammates by their nicknames or never curbs his desire to win (even if it's just SOCOM on the PSP).
Crosby isn't just talking about himself the whole video (that would be weird). Instead, sports reporters from across North America chime in to sing his praises. The local reporters like FSN's Dan Potash and the legendary radio announcer Mike Lange are balanced out by folks like Wayne Gretzky and NBC's Mike "Doc" Emrick. Even LaBron James shows up at one point. These clips, along with file footage, news articles, and plenty of B-roll are all edited together to perfection.
Production values are fairly excellent across the board here. The video quality is sharp and bright; especially the game footage, which is far more dramatic than the usual televised stuff. The sound, which is in Dolby Digital Surround, is also quite good. My only qualm there lies in the stock music they used, which occasionally veers a tad too hokey. One aspect of the sound that's jarring at first, but is actually interesting, is the way the game footage is mixed. Rather than focusing on the crowd, or the play-by-play, the sound designers let the players on the ice do the talking. There's plenty of yelling and banter while everything else is pushed to the background. It's an auditory perspective you don't often get in the sport.
The feature itself only runs about 80 minutes (despite the back of the box claiming the runtime to be 220, which I assume counts all the special features). Included on the disc are a number of supplemental videos that are basically deleted scenes from the feature. Each runs about two or three minutes, and they're all interesting in their own right. "Captain Crosby" deals with Sid's promotion to team captain; "The Draft Lottery" is a look back at the 2005 NHL draft; "Face of the League" is about Crosby's superstar status; the list goes on. One interesting feature is the "Personal Stories" set, which features a whole slew of folks telling their favorite Crosby story—some of which are pretty funny.
While those little clips may add to the feature video (and really could have been left in), the real bonus can be found in the "NHL Winter Classic." The NHL has thankfully given fans the entire game in glorious widescreen sourced from the high-def feed. The game, if you missed it on New Year's Day, was historic in its scope (it had the largest attendance of any NHL game). It also had a storybook ending, with Sidney Crosby winning it for the Pens in the final slot of the shootout. This game could have easily been released on its own DVD, and for many fans this alone is a huge selling point for the disc.
Ultimately, Sidney Crosby: On the Ice and Beyond is for fans of Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. It certainly has the scope and production values to appeal to the average hockey fan, but its connection to the city of Pittsburgh and "The Next One" (as he's called) is undeniable. The DVD itself may end on a downer, but I have a feeling that this won't be the last time we see a Sidney Crosby DVD.
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