With one shot, it was over.
Yes, Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal lifted Canada past the United States in one of the most thrilling hockey games ever played, Olympic or otherwise. It also allowed every Canadian to breathe a sigh of relief, their national pride on the line in a climax of epic proportions.
But Crosby’s goal did something else, something much more than just securing the gold medal for his native country in perhaps the most buzzed about, and compelling, tournament in hockey history. It put an end to one of life’s most gripping questions.
Crosby or Ovechkin?
Much like the Olympic flame that was extinguished soon after this thriller of a gold medal game, so too was the debate between these two hockey greats.
Game, set and match, Crosby.
For nearly five years now, people have been split over one of the biggest debates in all of sports. And for the most part, both sides have had compelling arguments, with Crosby and Ovechkin each supplying their respective sides with plenty of ammunition to make a case for them.
Their rivalry has put hockey back into the public eye, but it’s their play that has made it relevant.
Ovechkin grabbed the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year after the 2005-2006 season, edging out Crosby for the distinction. He’s also got two Maurice Richards Trophies (most goals) to his name, an Art Ross Trophy (most points), and two Hart Memorial Trophies (MVP) on his resume. With three All-Star appearances, and one of the most jaw-dropping personal highlight-reels, it’s easy to see why many give Ovechkin the distinction as the world’s premier player.
He’s an exhilarating force on the ice, oftentimes a one-man wrecking crew. Any time he touches the puck people hold their breath, wondering what kind of trick he’ll pull out of his bag next.
Crosby, though, is no slouch. He’s also got three All-Star appearances under his belt, as well as an Art Ross Trophy and a Hart Memorial Trophy. And up until now, he held at least one distinct advantage over Ovechkin in terms of choosing the greatest player; a Stanley Cup championship.
Crosby led the Pittsburgh Penguins to Cup glory last season, enabling him to engrave his name on the most hallowed trophies in all of sports, at the same time seemingly putting to rest any doubt about his retaining the moniker as the world’s best player.
But there were, and are, still many who shrug off Crosby’s championship as neither relevant nor significant in terms of determining who the better player is. Crosby is the better team player, they argue, but he can’t hold a candle to Ovechkin in terms of individual play.
Alexander the Great blows Sid the Kid out of the rink in terms of one-on-one ability, they’ll shout.
But if these past two weeks have proved anything, it’s that come crunch time, when the game’s on the line and your teammates, your franchise, and your country, are depending on you, there’s nobody you want more than Crosby.
Crosby gave us a foreshadowing of things to come in Canada’s preliminary round game against Switzerland when he scored the game-winner during the shootout. As soon as Zach Parise poked the tying goal past Roberto Luongo with just 25 seconds left to send Sunday’s finale into overtime, was there ever any doubt about who the hero was going to be?
Crosby lives for these moments, and at just age 22, he’s already cemented his place in hockey lore with a lifetime’s worth of big-time plays.
None more memorable, or meaningful, than the one that won gold for Canada.
You can argue all you want about individual stats and game-changing performances, but nothing speaks heavier than hardware, something Crosby knows all too well.
If winning the Stanley Cup wasn’t enough for you, then surely this latest feat of unparalleled heroics will bring you over from the dark side.
When all is said and done, there’s a good chance that Ovechkin will wind up with more points than Crosby, and there’s a good possibility he’ll take home more MVP’s as well.
But until he at least gets his name on the Cup, which seems feasible considering how dominant the Capitals have looked this season, there’s no way you can, in good conscience, make a case for Ovechkin as the best player.
But even more defining is his lack of a gold medal, something that he’ll have to wait at least four years for another shot at. They might not come out and say it, but my guess is that a lot of these players relish the gold more than they do the Cup.
If that’s the case, you can’t top Crosby’s moment from Sunday night, his overtime goal bringing the sweetest relief to Canada, a moment that very well may define his career.
But more importantly, a moment that secured his spot upon the throne of hockey royalty, a place reserved for only the game’s elite.
And while Ovechkin is undeniably a member of hockey’s royalty, his play and boyish exuberance earning him the title of Prince, there can be no more denying one indisputable fact.
Crosby is King.