Run it past Sidney Crosby.
That seems to be a standard course when there is a hot topic in the NHL -- or hockey in general. The Pittsburgh Penguins captain and longtime unofficial face of the NHL has offered his opinion on a wide variety of subjects throughout the years.
Crosby recently sat down with ESPN.com to discuss several things in an issue-oriented Q&A that serves as a sort of one-stop shopping experience for fans who want to know what he likes, what he doesn't and how he feels about many of the relevant topics in hockey.
ESPN.com: For several years, whenever you were asked what changes you wanted to see in the game, you said you wanted 3-on-3 play in overtime. Now that it's here, what do you think of it?
Sidney Crosby: I like it. I don't think I realized how important faceoffs would be, how important actual possession would be, because I find that you're fighting an uphill battle if you lose a faceoff right away. It almost seems like there's going to be a chance before you get your chance. It's almost like [NFL overtime]. I was surprised how important that was. I don't think I really thought about that.
And, as well, line changes. Line changes are so important. It kind of defeats the normal mentality of changing because usually you don't change if you're giving up a 3-on-2, but 3-on-3, you might have to give up a 3-on-2 just to get a fresh body out there. So there's a lot of little things you learn right away, but I like it. I'd rather a game finish in that than a shootout -- any way to kind of limit the shootouts.
ESPN.com: There has been talk of the NHL needing to do something to increase scoring. Do you see anything that could do that, and is it something the league should try?
Crosby: I mean, it's pretty easy for me to say [laughs]. Those 6-5 games are always more fun to watch than maybe the 2-1 games, depending on how the game goes. The 2-1 game can be exciting sometimes, but goals are obviously a big part of the game. If we can increase that, whether it [be] by making the goalie gear smaller or something ... there are different ways. There are less power plays, which probably cuts down on goals. I don't think you have to do anything drastic, but I don't see a problem with trying to score more goals [laughs again].
ESPN.com: You have made it clear through words and actions that you love playing for Canada. How do you feel about the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, given that it will mean being in game shape in mid-September, lengthening the NHL season and perhaps replacing the Olympics, as far as NHL participation?
Crosby: Any time you get to play for Team Canada, no matter where it is or what event, I think that's exciting in itself. I think the format of the World Cup is interesting. It's not just your typical country versus country. It's got its own little twist to it. Regardless of that, I think that just being able to play for your country, that will be special. I think if you talk to somebody who's on the under-23 team or the Team Europe team, I'm sure that's a new thing. I don't think anybody's gone through that. But just playing for Team Canada, that would be great.
ESPN.com: How prevalent or absent is performance-enhancing drug use in the NHL? Have you ever been approached about or offered PEDs?
Crosby: You hear stories about the odd guy who tests positive. Seriously, I have never been approached. Not once [have I been] in a situation where somebody's asked me if I wanted to use a certain substance or anything like that. Now, I think that as a player, you try to be really careful. There are so many supplements out there, so many different countries. What's approved, what's not. What's accepted at the Olympics is different than [NHL guidelines], so you really have to stay on that.
For guys that are using different supplements, it's easy for something to happen. You really have to be thorough with that stuff. It's a fine line. You're trying to take care of your body and gain an edge, but at the same time, you've got to know what you're putting in your body. It's a fine line, but I haven't ever had an instance where I was in a situation where I thought that somebody was trying to offer me a bad supplement or something.
ESPN.com: Have you ever suspected or known that a teammate was gay? Would a player who publicly came out as gay present any problems in the NHL?
Crosby: No. I haven't been in that situation, No. 1, but I don't think it would be an issue. That's something that we talk about much more openly now, and I think that you look at football, Michael Sam, seeing that situation and the opportunity he had to speak out and see how accepted everything was, I think that was a good example. I don't see that being an issue in hockey.
ESPN.com: Fighting seems to be way down in the NHL. A lot of teams don't have a designated enforcer or heavyweight. How do you feel about that?
Crosby: Um, it's tough. I mean, [fighting] is not the way the game is going. You're playing to win. If you feel like that doesn't give you a competitive advantage, then obviously, a team's makeup or a team's identity doesn't go with that. Fighting is still allowed. You still have guys who are capable of fighting, but it's more of somebody who from time to time drops the gloves. They're not known as a guy who racks up 20 fights a year.
It's kind of mixed. Does anyone like seeing a teammate get hurt in a fight? Obviously not. It's a scary thing, whether you're in one yourself or you're watching one. Anything can happen. It's dangerous. With that being said, I've felt like there was always a time and a place for it, just within the game and kind of the game policing itself a little bit. The fact that it is going away ... things do change a little bit.
ESPN.com: How have realignment and the wild-card format changed the playoff races? Do you like the changes?
Crosby: I'm not a big fan of it, but what are you going to do? That's the way it is. I don't like it just because I'd love to see just the top eight teams [in each conference] make it. There are definitely divisional rivalries, but at the same time, there are more teams in each division. That's the way it's done, but I prefer the top eight.
ESPN.com: It seems expansion is coming. How do you think that will affect the game, in terms of scheduling and spreading the talent?
Crosby: I haven't played when there was expansion. It's really hard to say. But with how tight the league is, I can't imagine it. You would think that expansion teams would struggle at the start. I don't know how many players you'd be able to get or how it works for the draft. It might take some time. [Ed's note: Crosby's answer came before the proposed expansion draft rules were discussed at the recent GMs meetings.]
But I look at Minnesota. It didn't take that long. I know that because I was in Minnesota going to school [at Shattuck-St. Mary's High] when they were making a run [to the Western Conference finals in 2002-03, the team's third season]. They're a pretty good example. It didn't take them that long. I don't think it would water things down. I think it would be good, be cool to play in some different places. I can't see it watering everything down.
ESPN.com: I think that covers a lot of ground. Thanks, Sid.