Crosby Vs. Ovechkin: Youth and Young Manhood

Heather ParryCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2009

The recent Pittsburgh-Washington games have dragged up the overdone yet always entertaining Sidney Crosby versus Alexander Ovechkin debate.

The media loves nothing more than to pit these two against each other, and the fans gladly follow, because it's fun.

What's striking me lately is not how different the two are, but how similar they're becoming. You only had to see Crosby's laughable attempts to rough up his Russian counterpart a couple of weeks ago, and the subsequent snub from the latter, to see how the rivals are rubbing off on each other.

Yet, there still seems to be one defining difference between them: how they deal with their age. At 21 and 23, its obvious to all—including themselves—that they're still growing as players.

Together, they may well have achieved more than any pair of youngsters in the show has managed to, but the fact still remains that they are still kids. Yet, one seems to see youth as his enemy, whereas the other sees it as his friend.

Watching Ovechkin play is always an exercise in how to be young.

With the energy of a 4 year old, and a recklessness only found in those young enough never to have injured themselves, he makes every other player in the league look like Chris Chelios, not to mention the fact that every goal he scores could be his first. At the occurrence of a goal, his happiness is extremely intense.

He embraces his youth and is loved for it. Would a more mature player have convinced Evgeni Malkin to dress him up like an idiot on ice for the All-Star skills competition?


Despite all the fevered joy of his game, it's his immaturity that's keeping him from moving forward.

He'll be the kid of the Caps until his game gets more serious and his highs and lows plateau to a more comfortable but much less exciting consistency.

Crosby, on the other hand, is mature enough for the both of them.

The youngest team captain in NHL history, "Sid the Kid" has been a serious game player from his first game—a situation that probably arises from having the expectation of Canada on his shoulders since he was 14.

It makes him a solid player rather than a thrilling one, and ensures that we'll probably never see him falling out of a shady club with a skinny blond in the postseason.

Yet for all this, he's still only just old enough to drink in the U.S.

In all respects, then, his age works against him—he wants to be much older than he is.

Like everything repressed, though, when it sneaks out, it comes back with a vengeance.

His inability to take a hard hit, his abject despondency at losing games, and his infamous complaining to the officials are all a result of his otherwise well-hidden youth breaking free from its cage of false maturity in sporadic bursts and vandalizing his reputation as much as possible.

In time, however, Crosby's control over juvenile outbursts can only get stronger, allowing his game to become ever more stable.

It's Ovechkin's youthful vitality, then, that seems destined to wane, leaving his future uncertain and his fans somewhat nervous.

What really sets the league's best young players apart is their difference in ideals, and while Ovechkin's love of young might win at the moment, maybe the fact that Crosby strives for young manhood will make him the player of the near future.