TORONTO - Sidney Crosby didn't see the fight that caused Connor McDavid to break a bone in his hand. Still, the NHL superstar understands what it's like to get picked on as a junior-hockey prospect.
"I'm sure he's got a target on his back," Crosby said Thursday. "It's not easy sometimes. It's one of those flukey things. But no matter how many times you've done it, even if you talk to guys who have fought for years, anything can happen in a fight and you really do have to be careful."
McDavid is out five to six weeks with a fracture of the fifth metacarpal bone in his right hand as a result of hitting the top of the boards during a fight Tuesday night with Mississauga's Bryson Cianfrone.
Though Erie Otters owner and general manager Sherry Bassin said he's "confident" his captain will be able to play for Canada at the world junior championship, the six-week time frame makes that a question mark. McDavid would be either the No. 1 or No. 2 centre if healthy.
Hockey Canada president and CEO Tom Renney on Thursday said there shouldn't be any rush to worry just yet.
"I don't know that it's necessary to create any anguish one way or the other," Renney said in a phone interview. "We know the extent of the injury, we know the timeline. ... We'll judge things as we get a little bit closer to the competition, pay close attention to the healing process and how he's making out and allow ourselves to make an informed decision at the most appropriate time."
Crosby, who won a world junior gold medal in 2005, knows McDavid wants to get back for the tournament. His recommendation is for the 17-year-old phenom not to worry about it right away.
"It's hard not to think ahead because everyone's asking you about it," Crosby said. "The comparisons and the expectations and you have world juniors, which is awesome. You're thinking about all of that stuff because that's really important you get to play for Team Canada."
Crosby said he didn't think he ever had an official fight while playing for the Rimouski Oceanic in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
"A half of one, maybe," the Pittsburgh Penguins captain said after practice at the Toronto Maple Leafs' facility. "They might've gave me four minutes for roughing."
With Rimouski, Crosby said he had players on the team to protect him from those situations. But that's not always a solution, as McDavid showed in the fight that got him injured.
"Sometimes emotion and things get the best of you and things happen," Crosby said. "I'm sure that his teammates and his coaches will be telling him to keep his gloves on if he can."
But Crosby also conceded much has changed since 2003-04 and 2004-05 when he was playing junior hockey.
"The rules, there was more clutching and grabbing and things like that I think you definitely saw a lot of that," Crosby said. "It's only nine, 10 years or whatever it is, but it's changed even since then. A lot less fighting and things like that."
McDavid, a native of Newmarket, Ont., leads the Ontario Hockey League with 16 goals and 35 assists in just 18 games this season. That's a pace that would've gotten him past Crosby's 168 point total in his second season in the QMJHL.
Connor Brown of the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies led the OHL in scoring last season while playing on a line with McDavid. Brown applauded his former Otters teammate for "sticking up for himself" and said even though Erie has tougher players this was an emotional moment.
"Obviously when you have a guy like that who's highly anticipated, around the world even, you want to protect him," Brown said. "I'm sure if someone else could take care of it, they would've. It was just kind of a heat-of-the-moment thing, and he didn't feel he needed anyone else. It's just a freak accident."
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