SUNRISE, Fla. — Sidney Crosby isn't giving up hope on one day playing at another best-on-best international tournament.
At least not yet.
The NHL skipped the 2018 Olympics for financial reasons before backing out of the 2022 Games because of COVID-19 concerns.
The league also hoped to stage a reimagined World Cup of Hockey in 2024, but Russia's war in Ukraine was cited among the reasons for that event being pushed back at least 12 months.
Crosby, the 35-year-old captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins, scored a memorable golden goal for Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and then helped his country top the podium again in 2014.
The NHL has committed to going to Italy in 2026, but agreements still have to be hashed out with the International Olympic Committee, International Ice Hockey Federation and local organizers.
Crosby, who also led Canada to the 2016 World Cup crown, remains optimistic he'll get at least one more shot.
"It's really unique and it's been a while," the three-time Stanley Cup champion said of best-on-best play during all-star week in South Florida. "There's nothing better – just the product, quality of hockey and the skill.
"That's what it's all about. Hopefully we get to that point again, because it's really special."
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman met with IIHF president Luc Tardif during the all-star festivities, but there are clearly obstacles.
"We each re-expressed our desires to work together on a variety of fronts," Bettman said. "It's important to the players and they'd like to play in the Olympics."
Crosby has still never suited up at a best-on-best tournament with the likes of Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid or fellow Cole Harbour, N.S., product and Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon.
"It's difficult," he said. "You want to be a part of that ... it's looked good number of times and hasn't worked out.
"I still have my hopes up."
The NHL's skill competition was widely criticized for its slow pace and, at times, confusing events.
With the league set to head to Toronto next year, some of the game's best offered their thoughts on how things can be improved.
"It's fun seeing guys do their thing," Crosby said. "Maybe just have that a little bit more intense in the way it goes, but that's easier said than done."
Calgary Flames centre Nazem Kadri would like things to move faster to keep spectators and players engaged.
"I'd just like to see more,” he said. "I know in terms of broadcasts on TV it's tough to fit into the schedule, but I think a couple more events can be added."
McDavid added the skills event is a moving target that's constantly getting tweaked.
"There's so many different things that they can do," he said. "They're trying to ultimately make it as entertaining for the fans as possible.
"I'm sure they'll come up with some new things for next year."
NURSE, KNIGHT TALK ALL-STAR WOMEN
Women have been on the ice as part of all-star festivities since 2019 when Kendall Coyne Schofield competed at the skills competition in the fastest skater event.
"I just love that we're showcasing the fact that the best hockey players in the world here, regardless of if they're male or female," Canadian women's star Sarah Nurse said. "It's pretty awesome that every year we're able to come out and contribute and do something with the guys.
“They all acknowledge us as athletes. It's pretty special."
Nurse, who scored on a spectacular one-handed breakaway move against New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin in Friday's skills event, and Hilary Knight of the U.S. national team played in a 3-on-3 women's game as part of the 2020 showcase.
Knight would like to see even more integration – perhaps men and women playing together – moving forward.
"Hopefully the future is really bright for the sport to combine," she said. "We hope there are more opportunities."
MONTY PRAISES CASSIDY
Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery credited his predecessor with helping him settle into his new job.
The organization fired Bruce Cassidy in June after 5 1/2 seasons, but Cassidy was still happy to share intel with his replacement.
"He was incredible to me," Montgomery, coach of the Atlantic Division all-stars, said of his counterpart from the Pacific. "I asked about the staff ... strengths and weaknesses.
"Felt like I had a good handle because of the information he gave me."
Montgomery also nearly bought Cassidy's house after the latter was hired by the Vegas Golden Knights.
"I didn't like the street for my five-year-old daughter," he said with a laugh. "She's a little bit of a lone wolf.
"We were looking for a quieter street."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2023.
Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press