For some time now, the debate has been "Which Penguin is the best hockey player, Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby?".
You could certainly make a terrific case for both players. But when most Penguin fans ponder the question, they soon realize that they simply don't care. It doesn't matter. As long as both of them are wearing black and gold, they are loved equally.
However, that will change in February as the two superstars remove the Penguin sweater in exchange for their respective national teams.
Crosby will be at the helm of the Canadian defense, defending Vancouver and their country in a run for another gold medal. Malkin on the other hand, will be leading the Russian vanguard that is hungry for its first Olympic Gold since the Unified Team in 1992.
They most likely aren't going alone. Crosby has Marc-Andre Fleury or Jordan Staal for company while Malkin has Sergei Gonchar.
This creates quite a stir among Penguin fans. Of course, if you are a Canadian or Russian, the choice is insanely easy. But for the Pittsburgh born-and-bred American hockey fans that have no prior connections with either nation, who's side do you pick?
Let's take a look.
Pros for Sidney Crosby and Canada:
Mario Lemieux . The greatest player in Penguin history was a Canadian. And now, he not only owns the Penguins but the Kid lives at his house, or mansion. Some fans may already have a previous history of supporting the Canadian team, thanks to Lemieux.
After all, who can forget his inspiring performance to play through the pain as Canada's captain in 2002, leading the team to the gold medal? Can we expect the same type of international heroics from the youngest Penguin captain?
Close Proximity . As the northern neighbor of the United States, many fans could find it easy to support Canada if the American team doesn't do so well. After all, it is only a six hour drive from Pittsburgh to Toronto. And who hasn't enjoyed a Labatt Blue at the Mellon Arena?
Familiarity . While Crosby is certainly on the team, you may also be a big fan of Staal or Fleury? But besides the Penguins, there are also a ton of other familiar faces on the roster. From legends like Brodeur, Iginla to a Hall of Fame history with Yzerman and Sakic, you just can't get enough of Hockey Canada's magnetic appeal.
Local Boy . When Crosby became the youngest captain to win the Stanley Cup, he instantly became Pittsburgh's favorite son and earned a place in Southwestern Pennsylvania folk lore. To you, he's only Canadian by birthplace. But now, he's a true blue-collar Pittsburgher that bleeds black and gold.
How can you possibly cheer against that? He's only worn the "C" for half his professional career.
But it's not all perfect, so to the negatives.
Cons for Sidney Crosby and Canada:
Rivals . Can you actually force yourself to support a team coached by Red Wings boss Mike Babcock, features Devils netminder Martin Brodeur between the pipes, and potentially four Philadelphia Flyers?
Or would it feel downright awkward to see Sid dropping passes off for Jeff Carter?
Despite the fact that Crosby is centering the top line and you want him to do well personally, it's just too darn hard to bring yourself to support a team filled with so many rival figures.
Canadian Bacon . If you believe this movie should be a reality show, enjoy saying "Eh" to mock a Canadian, and feel like Canadian currency isn't worth more than Monopoly money, it might be hard to support the northern nation. It's "USA! USA! USA!" and there's no chance you're pulling for a neighboring country.
Underdog . You're a fan who loves an underdog. Since 2002, Canada has won four gold medals and three silvers between the Olympics and the World Championships. The Canadians will also be the unquestioned favorite heading into Vancouver this winter.
What's the fun in pulling for a team that has all the talent in the world and is expected to win it all? Why not cheer for an major underdog like Great Britain?
Now, for Malkin.
Pros for Evgeni Malkin and Russia:
Personality . While Crosby is always more composed and focused, Malkin is a jester who is never afraid to voice his opinions. Bottom line, when he speaks, Penguin fans listen. He doesn't do interviews much, but his broken English is always fun to listen to in comparison with other teammates.
The rest of the Russian team shares a similar flair. Is it really hard watching a team that has so much fun?
Offense . If you're a fan of a team that has the chance to score ten goals in a period, then Malkin and Russia are for you. This team plans on scoring as much as possible, and enjoying themselves while they do it. You enjoy a good defensive chess match as much as the next fan, but sometimes a goal-fest can just be mesmerizing.
Steel Town Syndrome . Fans that have lived in the Steel City for the majority of their lives know what the city values. As the former industrial capital of the United States, hard work and grit are worth gold by themselves. Malkin was born in a town very similar to Pittsburgh, an industrial capital of Russia.
While he isn't a Pittsburgher himself, he hails from a town that embraces all the same ideals.
The Geno . Any time Crosby has gone down with an injury or been unable to play, Malkin has carried the Penguins on his back. Just watch his goal against Carolina about 15 more times.
And now the negatives...
Cons for Evgeni Malkin and Russia:
KHL . You hate the KHL. It can go to hell for all you care. They have tried to swipe Malkin from the Penguins and have taken a number of talented NHL players. Since half of the Russian team is made up of KHL players that you've never heard of, supporting Russia is quite difficult.
It's the rival league of the NHL and you won't ever support it.
Rivals . Just like with Crosby and Canada, many rivals play for Russia. Could you support Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, or Pavel Datsyuk? They have all given the Penguins headaches in the past.
Cold War . For some fans, Russia is still an enemy of the United States. Most of the hockey players were born in the Soviet Union. While you might enjoy watching Malkin play, listening to the Gosudarstvenny gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii just brings back too many memories of resent.
They speak in a different language, they use a different alphabet, and they all come from a land thousands of miles away. That is a formula for disaster.
Any more pros or cons? Who will you be cheering for? Or are you just the fan that wants to see good hockey and doesn't care who wins?
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