On the Penguins: Criticism of Crosby's comments off base
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Sidney Crosby is the most polarizing figure in the NHL.
He has thousands, maybe millions, of admirers who believe he can do no wrong. (Unless he wanted to do wrong, of course, in which case those folks are certain he could do it better than anyone ever has.) At the same time, he has legions of detractors who seem to think he's just a gene or two shy of being evil incarnate. And who will feel that way forever, or at least until Crosby starts to wear the colors of the team they happen to follow.
The reality, as usual, is somewhere between the extremes.
Crosby is as earnest and committed to his craft as anyone in hockey. He seems to have a deep, genuine respect for the game and everything about it.
He also has a tendency to express his feelings, often in a fairly animated manner, to officials and opposing players when he's on the ice. Not the ideal way to win friends and influence people. Especially people who have a built-in disdain for Crosby because of the sweater he wears.
He's taken a pretty good beating in some quarters lately, though, from people purported to be objective observers. People who contend that, although Crosby spoke publicly about his feelings on blows to the head after he suffered a concussion earlier this month, he was silent after teammate Matt Cooke gave Boston's Marc Savard a concussion with a blindside hit to the head in March.
"Crosby didn't say a whole lot then," commentator Keith Jones, a former NHL forward, told the Versus audience between the second and third periods of the Penguins' game against Boston this past Monday.
Jones' comment came in the wake of a few similar blasts sent his way during a roundtable discussion among prominent media members on TSN, a Canadian network, the day before.
The most striking came from respected Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox, who said, in part, that Crosby's words last weekend would have carried more weight "if he'd had something to say last year when Matt Cooke was knocking out Marc Savard," and that Crosby was "only speaking up on behalf of himself and his team."
Jones and Cox, and everyone else who feels as they do, are entitled to their opinion, of course. What they aren't entitled to is their own reality.
The fact is, Crosby did speak out on the subject after the Cooke-Savard incident.
He was quoted on that topic in any number of media outlets, including the following comments, which were printed in the March 11 editions of the Post-Gazette. In them, he suggested that a previously scheduled meeting of the league's general managers gave them an opportunity to address the subject that became headline fodder in the wake of Cooke's hit on Savard, "Maybe it's a good thing that the GM meetings were when they are," Crosby said then. "There's obviously some confusion as to what's a good hit and what's not a good hit. That's got to be fixed pretty quickly. We've seen it time and time again, and we all debate whether it was a good or a bad hit."
Did he call for a blanket ban on blows to the head after the Cooke-Savard incident? No. Then again, he didn't do that when he spoke with reporters last weekend, either.
Rather, Crosby talked about the circumstances that surrounded the checks he took from Washington forward David Steckel and defenseman Victor Hedman of Tampa Bay, noting that both involved blindside hits on an unsuspecting player who did not have the puck. Only then did he mention that there was "a direct hit to the head on both of them."
It also should be noted that Crosby did not request a platform to discuss the hits associated with his concussion; he met with reporters after his teammates' game-day skate at the behest of a team official.
Frankly, Crosby makes himself available to the media -- and, by extension, the fans -- after virtually every practice and game because he feels an obligation to do so as the captain of his team and, by most accounts, the most prominent figure in his sport.
It certainly isn't because he enjoys answering the same questions he's heard dozen, or hundreds, of times previously.
If people want to assail him for not using his bully pulpit aggressively enough -- to demand rules changes that would lead to a better on-ice product, a more player-friendly labor agreement, an end to puppy mills or whatever -- that's fair, even though that would seem to go against his nature.
He does not, however, deserve to be labeled, in effect, a self-serving hypocrite. Especially by people who would have known better if they did a little research.
Tuesday: Detroit ... The Marian Hossa Bowl. This is a terrific rivalry, considering the teams meet only once or twice each winter. (Mostly because it sometimes happens more than that in the spring.)
Thursday: at New Jersey ... The Devils are trapped in professional purgatory, with a lot of hockey left but almost nothing to play for except their position in the draft lottery.
Saturday: Carolina ... The Penguins are 10-2 against Southeast Division clubs, including a couple of victories against the Hurricanes. Carolina, though, has been one of the league's hottest teams lately.
First Published January 16, 2011 12:00 am