Fair or not, in his six NHL seasons, Sidney Crosby has developed a reputation as one of the league’s biggest whiners as well as being hockey’s most overprotected asset.
In the two weeks since the Winter Classic, Crosby has made it clear that he has no interest in ridding himself of either label.
During the game on New Year’s Day, Crosby and Washington’s Dave Steckel ran into each other with Crosby getting the worse of the contact. While Crosby was in obvious pain, he played the remainder of the game and would go on to play in the team’s next game against Tampa Bay.
A hit along the boards by Tampa Bay’s 6’6” defender Victor Hedman seemed harmless enough, but some combination of the Steckel and Hedman hits gave Crosby a mild concussion and has sidelined him since January 5.
However, staying off the ice hasn’t kept Crosby out of the news.
The Pittsburgh captain has made multiple comments speculating on the legality of the hits, neither of which resulted in fines or suspensions.
Video replay clearly shows that the contact between Steckel and Crosby was incidental; Steckel was no more interested in hitting Crosby than Crosby was interested in hitting Steckel. Nonetheless, Crosby felt wronged, speculating that a guy Steckel’s size couldn’t possibly hit Crosby’s head with his shoulder by accident.
Maybe it’s the concussion talking, but Crosby’s comments are utterly stupid. All they do is make hockey’s prima donna sound like a paranoid schizophrenic, believing that Dave Steckel has nothing better to do on the national stage than headhunt the Next One.
As if that weren’t enough, ESPN.com quoted Crosby as saying, “When I look at those two hits...I mean, we talk about blindside, and that's a big word—unsuspecting player, there's no puck there, and direct hit to the head on both of them. If you want to go through the criteria, I think they fit all those.”
Sidney Crosby plays a sport where his teammates take punches to the face for him, where players young and old are taught to keep their heads up at all times, and where boarding is only called when a player’s health is put in danger, not every time a player’s head makes contact with the boards.
Yet he feels the need to vocalize that the league is not protecting him enough.
Keep in mind that Crosby is a player who has a bad reputation for his attitude around the league, and who is well-known for drawing penalties any time defenders get remotely rough with him. Penguins fans will defend him consistently on this point, but can the fans really defend him this time?
If these comments on the Steckel and Hedman hits don’t qualify as whining, nothing will.
Crosby has been fortunate to play entirely in the post-lockout NHL, where obstruction and hitting are looked at under a microscope and defenders have become disadvantaged. The “new” NHL is designed to give players like Crosby every edge possible, so it is extremely irritating for fans of the rough aspects of the game to hear guys like him complain about officiating and hitting.
While his play in the past few years has solidified his spot as one of the most talented players in recent memory, his attitude toward the game is making him an incredibly polarizing figure.
Putting aside allegations of diving, shameless promotion and special treatment from hockey’s higher-ups, all of which are debatable at best, there is no doubt that Crosby has plenty of growing up to do before he is considered one of the most respected players in the game.
Starting with his failure to shake hands as a gracious winner in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals and now with the addition of his belief that he should be untouchable, Crosby seems completely disinterested in representing the league in a mature and respectable way.
The time has come for the Penguins’ captain to put his skate in his mouth and learn that once in a while, things don’t go your way no matter how much Gary Bettman loves you.