There is not a player in all of sports who is more unfairly vilified than Sidney Crosby, the Penguin's on-ice leader.
The guy can't catch a break. Every thing he does results in the spewing of hatred in his general direction.
That's why this latest controversy that has resulted in a chorus of "unsportsmanlike" calls is so illustrative.
Even I underestimated this one, figuring the silliness would quickly blow over. But, Sidney Crosby Derangement Syndrom (SCDS) should never be underestimated.
I've even seen articles comparing Crosby to LeBron James, who angrily marched out of the stadium following a playoff loss without congratulating a single member of the opposition.
Comparing the actions of a guy who was caught up in the moment after winning his first championship with someone who was intentionally and defiantly a sore loser borders on delusional.
Let me stipulate up front that Crosby made a mistake. He should have been at the front of the Penguins' handshake line.
On that point, I agree with the critics. No doubt when the Penguins win their next Cup, Crosby will be out front leading them in the traditional handshake.
But, he got caught up in the moment and celebrated just a little bit longer than perhaps was appropriate before heading to the hand-shake line after the Penguins claimed the Stanley Cup.
Can anyone blame him? That is, other than some disgruntled Red Wings' veterans and their media enablers.
This guy has had the weight of the world on his shoulders from the moment he stepped into the league.
This was the biggest moment in his life, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. He was overcome with both joy and a healthy dose of relief at the same time.
The guy was simply lost in the moment. Anyone with a shred of common sense could see that.
Nobody has had more pressure on him than Crosby, a key savior of hockey in Pittsburgh and the face of the NHL. The new Arena going up in Pittsburgh is frequently referred to as the "House that Sid Built" for good reason.
Despite his tremendous success up to this point, the "will he win a cup?" nonsensical monkey was forever off his back.
Was it really asking too much for the Red Wings' players to let Sid enjoy this magical moment without trying to poison it?
This guy has carried himself with class far exceeding his 21 years on this planet, handling media availabilities under even the most trying circumstances with grace while being a community leader in Pittsburgh.
Crosby ultimately made it to the handshake line, shaking hands with much of the Red Wings' team and their fiery head coach, Mike Babcock, who congratulated Crosby on his leadership.
No doubt Sid would have been more than happy to shake the hands of the Red Wings who had already left for the locker room.
It is never hard to shake hands when you are the winner.
And, let's not forget that a devastated and emotionally exhausted Crosby shook hands with every last Red Wing last year. He didn't miss a single one of them.
He politely waited for them to finish their celebration and then did his duty.
Do the Red Wings' veterans really forget how it feels to win that first Stanley Cup?
Ironically, it was much vilified ex-Penguin Marian Hossa who brought some sanity back to the discussion.
"After the game, when I start shaking their hands, I did not think, 'Who is there and who is not there?'" said Hossa.
"After, I think about it and I thought that I did not remember shaking hands with Sid. I'm sure he was caught in the emotion and did not know where he was. I know him. He wouldn't do it deliberately. He is a great guy. I think he was just excited and caught up in the emotion."
Bingo. Hossa may be the least liked Red Wing in Pittsburgh, but he was plenty insightful in this situation and showed some real guts in coming to the defense of a former teammate over his current mates.
In his defense, Niklas Lidstrom echoed this sentiment, although not quite as eloquently, carrying it a bit too far in calling it a learning experience for Crosby.
True. But, it didn't really need to be said by a Red Wing.
While Crosby made a mistake, his accusers have displayed a complete lack of sportsmanship in how they have responded to that mistake.
No doubt the Red Wings' veterans are fully aware of the SCDS phenomenon and knew they could stoke the fires with just a few words, since there is a veritable army of Crosby-haters ready to jump on the bandwagon of any faux controversy.
Kris Draper started the latest Crosby hate parade.
Said Draper, "Nick (Lidstrom) was waiting and waiting, and Crosby didn't come over to shake his hand. That's ridiculous, especially as their captain, and make sure you write that I said that!"
Well, we now all know that you said it, Kris, just as you wanted.
Hope you feel better about yourself.
And did it ever occur to you to go seek out the young and overly exuberant Penguins' captain to offer your congratulations to him? Apparently not.
If it was that important to him to shake hands with Sid, he could have gone over to the visitor's locker room, as the classy Brian Rafalski did so that he could offer further congratulations to former teammate Petr Sykora.
Henrik Zetterberg decided to add his own bit of poison to the punch bowl, later commenting, "I think you should do it after a series, shaking hands. I think it's disrespectful. I don't know the reason he didn't do it, but I hope he has a really good one."
Got to give it to him, he's a profound one, that Hank. He thinks you should shake hands after a competition. Even your average five-year-old understands that.
Did it escape his attention that Crosby shook hands with plenty of his teammates?
The insult be Zetterberg was all the more poisonous because of the tremendous individual battle that played out between the two players.
So, Crosby was called ridiculous and disrespectful by two of the Red Wings' leaders. What a classy bunch they are, these Red Wings.
Crosby has chosen to not apologize to the Wings. Good for him.
Any right to an apology was forfeited when they started spewing technicolor vitriol at him.
In my eyes, Zetterberg and Draper have forever been diminished.
Draper let his mouth get the better of him following a tough loss. Fine, it happens. But, I'm not sure what really motivated Zetterberg's comments long after the final game was played.
Part me me thinks he may be trying to further fan the flames of a rivalry that doesn't really need it, giving the Red Wings a reason to find the passion that so often eluded them against the Penguins, at least in the early stages of the games.
But, I don't think he is that calculating.
I suspect he is just bitter at having lost.
The only thing good to come out of this is that there will be even more intensity in what is developing to be the most compelling rivalry in the NHL.
If these two teams meet in the Finals next year, the spotlight that burned on the Crosby-Zetterberg individual battle in this year's series will be blazing smoke-coming-from-the-screen hot.
It is possible that Crosby-Zetterberg may even be eclipsing Crosby-Alex Ovechkin as the league's most compelling individual rivalry.
Sportsmanship is one of the great traditions of hockey.
Too bad Draper and Zetterberg missed one of its key lessons.