The NHL dropped the puck on its 2023-24 season Tuesday night and the feature matchup saw highly-touted rookie Connor Bedard and his Chicago Blackhawks top Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-2.
While Bedard may hit many milestones in his career, the Penguins' three-headed monster of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang broke a unique record — one that crossed all four major North American sports — when they hit the ice.
The Penguins' core three began their 18th season together in Pittsburgh, breaking a tie with the Yankees' Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera as the longest-tenured trio of teammates in the history of North American professional sports.
Jeter, Posada and Rivera — three parts of the franchise's "core four," which also featured Andy Pettitte — played in New York together for 17 seasons from 1995-2011 and won five World Series.
The Penguins' core has also delivered championships, capturing Stanley Cup titles in 2009, 2016 and 2017.
"I've always said and believed that these guys are the greatest core that I've certainly been around and witnessed," said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan via NHL.com. "They're in elite company without a doubt, the guys you mentioned with the Yankees, for example. These guys are in elite company from a core standpoint. ... They're generational talents, I think that speaks for itself. But all the other intangibles that they bring to the table, they just represent everything that's great about hockey."
Crosby, Letang and Malkin began playing together with the 2006-07 season, one year after Crosby made his NHL debut. Crosby (2005) and Malkin (2004) were No. 1 overall draft picks and Letang was selected 62nd overall in the third round of the 2005 NHL Draft.
"It's just special. There's no other way to put it," Crosby said. "It's not easy. There are so many factors. So much turnover with teams, especially nowadays where you see that it's so uncommon that players can stay with the same team. The fact we were able to do that, it's really special.
"You appreciate that. You're grateful for that, and hopefully, a few more years left here together."
They have franchise records, team accomplishments and individual awards, and there still might be more to come. Crosby, 36, is signed through 2024-25; Malkin, 37, is tied up until 2025-26; while Letang, 36, has a contract that will expire after the 2027-28 season.