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Jim Cerny's Rink Rap


November 30, 2010 3:12 PM

The Sidney Debates

SidAvery.jpgThe debates began in the stands, locker rooms, and press box at Madison Square Garden last night and have raged ever since on the internet, in Twitter-verse, and in the hockey blogosphere.

These debates are ones that have been hotly contested before, and will be for years to come.

Is Sidney Crosby a dirty hockey player? Does Sid do dirty things as a way to protect himself from non-stop abuse from opponents? Does the league and its officials protect Crosby more-so than other star players? Why is it that Crosby evokes so much emotion from fans and players around the league? Quite simply, why is he hated more than fellow superstars Alex Ovehckin and Steven Stamkos, just to name two?

These debates sprung up for a couple of reasons yesterday. First, at his team's morning skate Rangers head coach John Tortorella said he had spoken with league officials about how games against the Penguins were called by the referees. Torts did not single out Crosby by name, but it was clearly inferred when he spoke about Penguins transgressions which were not penalized by the league's referees when the Rangers and Penguins met two weeks ago in Pittsburgh---a game which saw the Penguins receive six power plays and the Rangers zero.

Then last night the Rangers claimed that Crosby delivered a slew foot to Ryan Callahan and another to Sean Avery over the course of Pittsburgh's 3-1 victory over the Blueshirts. New York's Brandon Dubinsky, who has long been vocal regarding his disgust with Crosby, said of Sid's alleged slew foot on Callahan, "Yeah, that's a dirty play. That's the kind of player he is." Callahan added that it was "absolutely" a slew foot---a dirty play where one player kicks out the skates from underneath an opposing player, usually from behind...often believed to be one of the more gutless and dangerous plays in hockey.

When Crosby fired back---"How many penalty minutes do I have this year if I am that dirty? Please. Show me all of those dirty plays. It's a battle and he falls. I think Dubi has done his fair share of things out there that are questionable. I guess he's talking again, but I am not surprised. I'm not a dirty hockey player, c'mon. I think Dubi is smarter than that, c'mon"---the debates took on even more legs.

Is Crosby a dirty hockey player? No, I would not call him a dirty hockey player. I would call him a hockey player prone to doing some dirty and sneaky things out on the ice. He seems very cold and calculated about what he does, not posessing the obvious Ovechkin intensity, but rather an icy assasin's insides. It is part of what makes him a great player. If you are a Penguins fan you say he is just doing whatever it takes to win, and that's why he is a great captain and is already a proven Stanley Cup winner. Plus he is such a target from the opposition, he needs to protect himself out there on the ice. If you are not a Pens or Crosby fan, you'll say that Sid is a dirty little snot who gets away with everything because the league and its officials protect his rear end and he deserves whatever opponents can inflict on him. I say both sides are right to an extent.

Does the league and its officials protect Sid more than other star players? I would say that most star players get away with more illegal things than your average mucker-and-grinder does, no question about it. And I would have to also say, without watching every game by every team every night, that Crosby does seem to get away with a bit more than other elite players. But is that because he is just more sneaky or because it is overlooked? Great question. Not sure of that answer, though I will say that Sid is one sneaky son of a gun. Two weeks ago in Pittsburgh as play headed back the other way Crosby whipped through Henrik Lundqvist's crease as Sid turned to head up ice. As he did, Crosby's skate clipped Lundqvist's sending the Rangers goalie to the ice. Refs skating the other way never saw it. Accident? Or just another case for Sneaky Sid? Hmmm. Also because Sid plays a different game from Ovechkin it is more likely that Ovie will receive more penalty minutes. And Ovie has received suspensions for some of his actions. But the Gordie Howes and Mark Messiers and Ovechkins who play more physically and stand up more for themselves in an aggressive manner are clearly more respected than a Crosby, who does not initiate that aggressiveness, but instead is prone to the subtle paybacks out on the ice.

Why is Crosby hated so much? Jealousy tops the reasons why Sid the Kid is hated so much by opposing fans and players. No question about it. Ever since he was drafted first overall Crosby has had a certain smugness and arrogance about him, which he has backed up with superstar-level play, four 100+ point seasons, two Cup Finals, one Stanley Cup ring, and an Olympic gold medal, all by the age of 23. If you have him on your team, you love him. If you don't have him, well, you don't love him. Quite simple. But beyond his play Crosby has a well-earned reputation for complaining to the officials about every little thing. Pens fans would say that is great leadership and gamesmanship. Everyone else says he is a spoiled whining man-child who gets everything he wants. A bit of both is correct. Fans are more prone to throw their arms around a Steven Stamkos because he is a respectful, good-natured kid, with no outward signs of arrogance with a Lady Byng style on the ice, or an Ovechkin who wears his heart on his sleeve, can play reckless, out of control, and blatently dirty, but is not viewed as being sneaky or a whiner. Crosby comes off as obnoxious and that hurts his image. Fans are OK if the true superstars---and I mean the true elite, like Crosby is now--- are dirty---see Howe and Messier---or not---see Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Bobby Orr. They are not as keen when a player of that elite level is viewed as sneaky and obnoxious, as Crosby is.

It's an image thing really. Crosby is not a dirty hockey player, but he does do dirty things. But it's his overall persona that gets underneath the skin of opposing players---like Dubinsky---and fans so much.

It is what causes him to be at the root of these particular debates.

It will also be what keeps him from being universally loved---a la Gretzky and Lemieux and Yzerman---unless something fundamnetally changes in his personality over the course of his career.

Then again, why should Sidney Crosby change anything? Seems to be working out quite nicely for him, I'd say.


Follow Me on Twitter: @jimcerny

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