On Sidney Crosby and Fan Backlash

Pittsburgh Penguins captain, Sidney Crosby. Photo courtesy of www.nhlsnipers.com

It always makes me chuckle when I read people knocking Sidney Crosby.  Particularly in the comment sections of stories about Sidney Crosby.

“He’s not the best player in the league.” “He’s overrated.” “So and so is better than him.”

I often wonder if these naysayers are watching the same game.

If there is another player out there who has captained a Stanley Cup winning team, captained an Olympic Gold Medal team, captained a World Junior Championship team, captained a Memorial Cup finalist team, won scoring titles, helped massively market the game, been part of the best personal hockey rivalry since Gretzky/Lemieux, been the youngest player to win a scoring title in all of professional sport, been the players choice (Lester B. Pearson Award) as the best player in the NHL, been voted the best player by his peers (not fans, players) in several polls, won a Rocket Richard Trophy (top goal scorer), won a Mark Messier Leadership Award, will likely win a Masterton Trophy (perserverance/dedication/sportsmanship) this year, and is the current active points-per-game player in the NHL, could you please list him here?

Oh, let’s not forget, he’s also a 2-time winner of the Lou Marsh Award for top athlete in Canada.

Haters are going to hate, I suppose.  But, when they do, I do hope that they try to give some sort of evidence as to why Malkin, Datsyuk, etc. are better.  Particularly when NHL players have nominated him the best in the game.  I sure hope that those who critique are not putting their own personal biases ahead of those of professional players.

I also often read questions about his “classiness.”  The Kid broke into the NHL as a teen and immediately was a marked player on the ice.  If there was one person to hit and hurt, it was him.  After getting peeled off the ice enough times — after cheap shot upon cheap shot from goons — I’d probably be tempted to whine to the refs for some kind of justice.  And, chances are, at some point, after being regularly manhandled, I’d probably throw a cheap shot or two of my own.

Funny, though, as the boy became a man the whining became less frequent.  And Crosby started retaliating more with talent than with complaints.  As with Gretzky, the level of respect from his peers grew as he matured.

Is he another Gretzky?  No.

There will never be another Gretzky.

But he is the best player in the NHL.  The face of the game.  And there is great desire from many, many fans for regular coverage of him and his unique skill set. 

Sure, the media can go over the top, but they do that with all stories that sell.  Not just with Crosby, and not just with hockey.  I mean, I have no idea who Kim Kardashian is, but she sure floats across my media radar an awful lot.  You can avoid much of the hype around Sid by not reading stories about Sid.

Do I think that the media can tone it down a notch?  Of course I do.  Focusing solely on one player takes away from the game.  Daily Crosby headlines mean that other stories are not told.  Crosby-cams distract from the sport as much as FOX-era glowing pucks once did.

But, sure enough, there remains a growing market for Sid and Sid stories.  And I sure do understand why both the media and the NHL salivate over the revenue that promoting Crosby can bring.  Like most other media overkill, I have learned to tune it out.

And when the hype reaches hysterical levels?  When you can’t ignore it?  When it spills out beyond the sports pages?  Well, then, chances are good that there is probably something special in the offing.

I, for one, relish watching those historical moments in the making.

As a lover of the game, I cherish seeing the best that the sport can offer.

And I cherish watching Sidney Crosby.

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