Tuesday night in Buffalo Sidney Crosby cup checked Ryan O’Reilly and Sabres fans went nuts (no pun intended). Later on, in the same game, while muffing a shot into the yawning cage, 87 took a high stick to the mouth from Evander Kane. Sabres fans once again, much like Crosby’s teeth, were losing it. “Embellishment!” they cried. “Diving!” they screamed. Let us put all of this on the backburner for a moment.
Thursday night comes around and the Penguins are in The Truth North’s capital, Ottawa. Senators’ defenseman Marc Methot was rushing the puck up ice, and Crosby reached in and slashed Methot. The result of the slash on his hand, we’ll call it a “broken” finger. Because realistically, I don’t know if explosion is really a medical term to describe Methot’s finger. This time the Crosby haters come out of the woodwork or crawl out of whatever rock they usually live under, in exceptional form. “Crosby’s a scumbag” I read. “Crosby is the dirtiest player in the league” someone said. “Someone should rip his head off for that dirty play” was stated. “The league protects Crosby, he gets away with everything” was very popular. Even the Senators owner chimed in saying that “Crosby should get a 10-game suspension.”
So, let’s get to the nuts and bolts of all of this and truly explain how this game works for all the keyboard warriors, couch coaches, armchair GM’s, and wannabe referees that don’t know a blue line from a clothes line. As I have stated numerous times in the past, all great players make dirty plays. Even the Great One has crossed checked a guy in the wrists and hit a guy from behind. Le Magnifique without a doubt has dished out the occasional cheap shot. The Great 8 has laid some lumber in his time. Even one of the game’s most magical puck handlers and also a Lady Byng winner on multiple occasions, Pavel Datsyuk, most recently laid a questionable late hit on a guy and run someone from behind in his Red Wings days (https://youtu.be/lJAYEtsgrTY ). However, most of this kind of play has gone unseen up until just recently. Why? Because before modern technology and the brilliance of marketing teams, hockey was viewed on TV much like Clerks the movie was made, a real one shady camera set up. Now hockey has just about every angled covered on the ice. Some broadcasts have even had cameras specifically tuned in on certain players when they are on the ice. To give the fans a great “experience” watching hockey, we get to see something happen in super slo-mo from multiple different angles on repeat. If something happens on the ice, someone, somewhere has a video of it. Nothing goes undocumented. This is great for fans, but for players, they have a hard time getting away with a little rough play without getting scrutinized under the all-seeing eye. Even more so for someone like Crosby.
Which brings me to my next point. The Penguins captain has been on a career path since he was 8 years old. Since then, he’s been better than everyone else on the ice. His peers have said it in every league and on every team, he’s ever played on. This isn’t just a Crosby fan rant, these are the facts. Every owner, GM, and coach in the league would sell their soul to the Devil to have 87 on their team. So, with that being said, Mr./Ms. keyboard warrior, I hear you are the best dang server the Olive Garden has ever had. The top brass at the OG love you! You’re selling glasses of wine left and right, add-on’s galore, and appetizers to every table. You are so good they are going to put you in their commercials. So now a camera is following you around all day while you are doing your job. That camera catches you putting extra bread sticks in a table’s basket or you forget that they ordered a Diet Coke and you bring them regular Coke instead. Oh no! You are now the worst Olive Garden server ever and now the millions of people on twitter get to criticize you for days. They will whine and complain about what a horrible person you are and how you should be burned at the stake for your actions. Welcome to the world of Sidney Crosby and many other professional athletes like him. When players are so good they become very closely watched by everyone who loves that sport, sometimes even more so by those who dislike the athlete just so they have something negative to say about them. It happened to Gretzky. It happened to Lemieux. It happened to Howe. It still happens to Jagr. People will always hate the king until the king gives them money or dies. If 87 was traded to Philadelphia tomorrow, I guarantee that he would never be booed in that city again. And if he took them to the Stanley Cup Finals they would immediately put a Crosby statue in place of the Balboa one. The fact is, all eyes are on Sidney Crosby because he’s the best in the world. And again, that’s not just a fan talking, this has been stated by many other NHL players, coaches, and GM’s around the league.
But hey, let’s get into the x’s and o’s of the matters at hand. The game is played hard. It is not a game for the weak. And in the NHL, in order to be effective, a player cannot be a box of Charmin on the shelf. Crosby is a tough customer who battles for every inch and he competes hard night in and night out. Everyone says that about him. He’s also a player who must battle through a lot of stick work, holds, and other illegal plays every shift in order to be successful at his job. Imagine every day while you sit at your little cubicle doing the paperwork for someone’s mortgage, your office competition comes over and pulls your chair out from underneath you. Now, think of that happening every time you went to sit at your desk. I’d like to think you’d retaliate eventually, right? Was the cup check on O’Reilly uncalled for? Yes! Have many players (including myself) performed a similar play? Absolutely! Should it have been a penalty? Sure! Why wasn’t it? That’s a whole other topic for another day. Did Crosby most likely try to poke him in the back of the leg and miss and accidentally get him in the marbles? That’s more likely the scenario. If it was vicious, Crosby wouldn’t not have apologized to O’Reilly. And if O’Reilly thought it was malicious he certainly would have done something about it. Instead he was quoted as saying, “He’s a good guy, he’s just playing hard…it happens.” See, if the violated player is ok with it, fans need to let it go.
Finally, the slash on Methot believe it or not was a hockey play. As others have already said, this same exact play happens 50-60 times a game. Players are taught to be hard sticks. This is how the game is played. Even Methot’s teammate Erik Karlsson said, “[Crosby] puts his stick in as [Methot] is trying to shoot the puck in and unfortunately it hits his finger,” Karlsson said. “It turns out worse than most other times, plays like that happen all the time, but I don’t think it was intentional or dirty.” But as you read earlier in this piece Senators owner had a different take. Funny enough though, I retweeted tonight, something posted by an NHL analyst. It was a compilation video of Methot making the exact same time of play on other players throughout the years (https://twitter.com/mike_p_johnson/status/845454086984077312 ) Should 87 have been called for a penalty? Sure. If he hits the stick and it breaks, it’s an automatic call. Unfortunately, Crosby got him on the finger. And where he got hit on the finger, literally has no protection. That portion of hockey gloves is just a little piece of palm leather and no padding what so ever. Was it worthy of the Department of Player Safety reviewing it? Hell no! This was the Pens captain making a hockey play and accidently hitting more hand than stick. This wasn’t Adam Graves trying to chop of Mario’s arm in the ’92 playoffs (https://youtu.be/VwgAV2djXXg). So, let’s not make it out to be something more than what it was, a routine play at ended poorly. This is hockey folks, not tennis. It’s violent game.
Good talk! See ya out there!