How close was Crosby to playing at UND?

GRAND FORKS, (FNS) — The 2004-05 University of North Dakota team was pretty good.

With Travis Zajac, Drew Stafford and five other future NHL players and a host of college stars, UND rolled all the way to the NCAA national championship game.

But how close was that team to having Sidney Crosby, too?

On a recent podcast, Crosby discussed how he seriously looked at playing college hockey instead of in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he eventually ended up. And if he ended up in college hockey, UND likely would have been the destination.

Crosby played his sophomore year at Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep School in Faribault, Minn., during the 2002-03 season. After that season, he jumped to the QMJHL, but Crosby said he almost went back to Shattuck for one more season to roll his junior and senior years into one year before heading to college.

“It was tough,” Crosby said on the Spittin Chiclets podcast. “I almost stayed and did 11 and 12 in the same year and then I would have been able to go to college.”

One of the hosts asked Crosby where he would have gone.

“I remember North Dakota was probably up there, just because Zach Parise had gone there,” Crosby said. “He had gone to Shattuck. He went there. And they had just built that rink, I think, and that was just kind of a draw there.”

Crosby did take an unofficial campus visit to UND with one of his Shattuck teammates.

Of course, Crosby didn’t end up coming to UND, but that teammate did — and the teammate ended up winning a Hobey Baker Memorial Award as college hockey’s top player. It was Ryan Duncan.

At Shattuck, Crosby was teammates with Stafford, Duncan and Matt Smaby, who went on to be a future UND captain.

Crosby did find himself in Ralph Engelstad Arena during that 2004-05 season, only it was as a member of the Canadian World Junior team, which defeated Russia in the gold-medal game. That World Junior team is widely regarded as the best ever assembled.

Crosby has gone on to captain the Pittsburgh Penguins to three Stanley Cups. He has won the Hart Trophy twice as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player.