Inevitably, I get asked the question “Who’s better, Crosby or Ovechkin?” Probably because it’s widely known among my friends and acquaintances that I’m a solid Penguins fan.
It’s a hard question to answer, really.
Burnside and LeBrun tried to answer it recently during a series of articles around the preview of this year’s NHL season. Result?
Honestly, I see it as this generation’s “Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemiuex?” question. You can’t really answer it. Gretzky was a pure player – his amazing records and fantastic goals are still the stuff of awe and wonder. Yet you can’t discount Lemiuex, who was ballet on ice – when not crippled by pesky cancer. He was the consummate leader and inspired his teammates to play unmatched and not repeated in their later years with other teams.
I could go on and on – and did, back in my younger days. Many times around the lunch room table at school did we argue back and forth between the two.
It’s no different now.
Ovechkin is a phenomenal player; his celebrations and passion for the game is incalculable and his energy is infectious. He can turn a game around just from one fantastic goal or tremendous hit. But Crosby is just as great; his leadership skills inspire incredible plays and his personal dedication to the game on and off the ice is second to no one. He inspires his teammates to amazing comebacks and eye-boggling plays, which invariably breaks the game wide open.
In all honesty, they’re both great in their own right.
Should they be compared to the greats of yesteryear? Many times I’ve heard such comparisons, usually from old salts who remember the glory days of Bobby Orr and Stan Mikita. But I think, at this time, that both Alex and Sid stand on their own in such august company.
They each bring amazing play and skill level to the league in their own ways. And it transcends the game, I think. Ovie’s the popstar and Crosby’s the darling. Polar opposites in many ways, they both are the definition of a sport and league recovering from severe lack of interest.
Here, in DC, it’s the all-Ovie show, all the time. And I think, when I get asked that question, my friends who are Caps bandwagoners are just waiting to jump on me because my allegiance to the Penguins is widely known. Eyes go wide when I invariably answer, “Ovechkin. And Crosby. The sport is better for them both, and they’re both better for each other.” Because it’s true. Aside from the hype the local press in both cities give to the “face-off,” I think their play ratchets up a notch when they face each other.
I know that an answer to this question won’t be easily forthcoming – I still debate Gretzky vs. Lemiuex even now during our weekly hockey night gatherings. But I do know this – as a hockey fan, I’m glad they’re on the ice.
Thank you, Alex and Sid; you’ve brought hockey back from the dead. And for that, I am ever grateful.