Friday, February 16, 2007

"Cheap Shots on Crosby Going Too Far"

It's all too obvious that Sidney Crosby gets a lot of special attention on the ice.

So, what the hell can be done about it? Anything?

From Chris Bradford of the Beaver County Times:

While becoming the youngest player in NHL history to record 100 points a season ago, Sidney Crosby also became the first player to amass the century mark in points and penalty minutes.

Along the way, the Pittsburgh Penguins' teenage superstar garnered a less-flattering reputation - at least in some corners - as a whiner, a diver, a crybaby and an embellisher.

In hockey circles those claims are serious charges. They are akin to questioning the manhood of the 19-year-old.
Well, Crosby *did* take a lot of diving penalties last year. It's not like the labels came out of thin air...

Oddly, much of that criticism has come from Crosby's native Canada. For a people who love hockey so much - it's the national sport north of the border - it's strange that Canadians would bash their native son. It's no secret that Wayne Gretzky was a notorious whiner and he's as Canadian as Canadian bacon. But this is 2007, not 1987.
Umm, most hockey press of any sort, good AND bad, comes from Canada. It certainly doesn't come from Uganda, or the USA

Hockey, the NHL more specifically, needs Crosby more than ever.
Now, more than ever, we need to stop using this phrase...

With miniscule television ratings in the U.S. and minimal media coverage being given to the sport, even in traditional hockey areas like Chicago, Boston and New York, those who ridicule Crosby should instead cherish him.

There should be no doubt that Crosby is the future of the NHL. Every goal Crosby scores, every highlight reel play he makes, can only help the beleaguered league get off the mat in the eye of the U.S. sporting conscience.

The last thing the league can afford to have is "the face" of said league bloodied by a cheap shot.

It's no surprise that opponents have begun taking liberties against Crosby in recent weeks. First, the New York Islanders' Jason Blake speared him in the gut. Then Montreal's Maxim Lapierre butt-ended him off an opening faceoff. Later in the same game, the Canadiens' Francis Bouillion bloodied Crosby's face with a high stick.

The response of the 21,000-plus fans in Montreal that night? Chants of "Faker! Faker!" reigned down from the Bell Centre. Some "true patriot love," eh?
Umm, it has more to do with them being, I dunno, CANADIENS fans than anything else.

That's not to say the charges lobbied against Crosby don't have some merit.

He does argue penalty calls against him and argues when he doesn't get a call in his favor. But, who doesn't? When was the last time a player went into the penalty box happily? Or was happy to have his face cut?

And that's not to say Crosby isn't tough. He is. He's fearless driving to the net and going into the corners. He takes on defenders and still controls possession of the puck as he did Wednesday night in the final minute of regulation in a 5-4 shootout win over the Blackhawks.

No doubt, Crosby will get the refs in his favor. But this being the NHL, where old school thinking still applies, Crosby will likely have to wait to get his respect. It's why Roger Clemens' strike zone is bigger than say, Zach Duke's. And it's why Michael Jordan always got the foul call.
That's also the dumbest reasoning I've heard in some time. I know that big stars often get the benefit of the doubt, but they SHOULDN'T. Every player should be subject to the same standards, regardless of star status or not.

That might not be want the Penguins want to hear. But that will likely be the reality.

Unfortunately, the NHL isn't MLB or the NBA. It's not in a position to wait.

Hockey fans can only hope that those in the league offices in Toronto and New York understand that fact. The NHL needs Crosby to flourish, not absorb cheap shots.

Hart Trophy winner (league MVP). And, best player in the world.

Now, those are more fitting titles for a player like Sidney Crosby.
Or, maybe the Penguins ought to get a real goon to start pounding some ass when Crosby is so much as breathed on. It's not up to the NHL, or anyone other team, to protect Crosby.

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