The hockey community has been split ever since those commercials showed Alexander Ovechkin ordering tons of room service in the name of Sidney Crosby—who of these two prodigies is really the best?
The typical line, and the one that has to end most drunken discussions before a fight breaks out, is that Ovechkin is the flashy goalscorer while Crosby is the reliable (and ultimately more valuable) playmaker.
But, to be honest, I think there’s a little more to it than this.
Take this year’s All-Star skills competition and Sid’s absence.
Was anyone really that disappointed? Sure, it was a shame, but would Sid really have flung the puck into the air and attempted a baseball swing at it?
It’s a testament to Sid’s work ethic and apparently innate talent that he made Penguins' captain whilst still in his teens, and is regarded by anyone with half a brain as one of the best players in the league, while becoming the poster boy for everything NHL.
To suggest that his playing is substandard in any way would be bordering on ludicrous.
However, it was Ovechkin who walked into the league with a bang, scoring two goals in his first ever game.
It’s Ovechkin, not Crosby, who has Gretzky staring and shaking his head at replays of his goals.
It’s Ovechkin who leaves you laughing incredulously at his sheer love of playing, even when his goal has just sunk your favorite team.
It’s Ovechkin who’s even got you desperate for the Caps to make the playoffs.
Perhaps it’s the underdog syndrome that’s got me—something I’ve inherited from my dad—and Sid’s comparatively easy upbringing that doesn’t tug the heartstrings as much as Ovie’s struggle to be allowed to play at the age 7.
Certainly, from over here in Britain, with limited access to live games, it’s the Russian who commands the most adulation, and he's who I’m more likely to sit watching videos of on the internet when I could be doing something productive.
From an outsider’s perspective, Crosby certainly seems to be the straight-laced to Ovechkin’s joker; the Wise to Ovie’s Morcambe; the nerd to No. 8’s classroom clown.
Maybe it's true that Sid has the staying power and the greater overall value, and maybe it’s true that Ovechkin eventually will crash and burn. But isn’t it better to live one hour as a tiger than a whole lifetime as a worm?
Ok, so no one in their right mind would put Crosby in the worm category, and there’s no denying that he’s destined to be thought of as one of the all-time greats, but the point remains the same—slow and steady might win the race, but where’s the fun in that?