Sid Vs Ovie 2010: No Hockey Rivalry Rivals the Crosby-Ovechkin Battle.
***Heading into their Olympic quarter-final showdown both touted as their respective country’s top players, I thought I’d relaunch my Sid vs. Ovie blog that I previously posted for another site. While the latest chapter may not be have the gold medal on the line, for Canadian fans, it might as well be in the “do or die” situation we’ve found ourselves in. Enjoy!*** -SDC
There are battles of Alberta, Summit Series’, and “Magnificence” vs “Greatness”; but is there an NHL rivalry greater than the current individualistic battle between Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin?
The two phenoms entered the league as at least respectful rivals of each other. Prior to their simultaneous NHL arrivals, they had only ever competed against each other on the international stage, playing for Canada and Russia, respectively. With cameras and tape recorders rolling, making campy NHL commercials and delivering birthday cakes at the NHL All-Star game together slowly morphed into on-ice physicality and off-ice verbal sparring. Welcome to the business of “selling” the new NHL to the American market.
It’s a protagonist-antagonist scenario that seems to be inspired by Vince McMahon himself. In one corner, you have the abrasive, exciting, inimical Ovechkin; equipped with infinite energy and a talent level he must have exchanged his soul for, hailing from Mother Russia, a country that, according to Hollywood, produces more bad guys than perogies. His opposition, the humble, hard-working, and traditional Crosby; hailing from Canada, playing and interviewing the way the Canadian hockey heroes of the past did before him. Of course, as the NHL panders to the North American market, it’s easy to portray Crosby as the “good guy”, though Ovechkin, Federov, and every other Russian NHL star has been adorned in their homeland. Most Canadian fans would likely admit that there’s Russian NHL’ers that are better than Canadian NHL’ers, but they’d feel like they were betraying their country if they ever uttered it publicly.
Forget all the media hoopla; shouldn’t the NHL be sending royalties to the parents of Sidney and Alexander for deciding to have children that grew up to capture the attention of their entire audience? In the ongoing battle to
procure American advertisers and cable network broadcasters, the NHL can count on at least Penguins and Capitals games as easy ratings sells; providing that Crosby and Ovechkin are in the lineup. Did anyone care about the Capitals before Alexander the Great? A team with no Stanley Cups, and nothing more than a conference championship in 1997-98, former Hart and Art Ross Trophy Winner Jaromir Jagr couldn’t even make hockey exciting in Washington. All of a sudden, the Verizon Center has sell-out crowds, and the team is a contender. Ovechkin plays with a wreckless abandon that has resulted in a kneeing suspension, but what is coach Bruce Boudreau going to do with his star, bench him? Tell him to ease up? Come on. The Penguins at least got to pair Lemieux and Crosby together in 2006, but the Steel-Town had been pretty dismal since the back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1990-92. Sure hockey’s a team game, but to suggest that the individual ability and rivalry of Crosby and Ovechkin isn’t largely responsible for the teams’ success and the league’s rising interest, is naive.
The 2008-09 playoffs were an absolute treat to watch, and many people would point to the Pens/Caps Eastern Conference showdown as a highlight, as well as an indication of who would/did become the eventual Cup winner. Fans got to see Sid and Ovie go at each other for seven consecutive games rather than once a season, and they got to see both players at the top of their respective games; Game 2 featured both players notching hat tricks, and Sid’s 13 series’ points and Ovie’s 14 equaled the highest single-series point total since the 1995 NHL playoffs. It was awesome.
Penguins win the series 4-3, and the “evil” Ovechkin, was banished back to Russia (well, Washington), screaming promises of revenge (actually he wished that the Pens win the Cup, but just work with me) while he was being dragged away. Meanwhile, the “heroic” Crosby was adorned on a mountain top, cape waving, a dark curl dangling from mid-brow (just above his perv-stache), all while giving an interview where he characteristically puts over his opponents, commenting on how well they played, and not giving himself any selfish credit. Wouldn’t it have been great/justified if he had finally just snapped, either after that series or after winning the Cup, and said, “YOU SEE?!?! I AM BETTER THAN HIM!!”
Ovechkin wins rookie of the year, Sid’s named the youngest captain in history. Sid wins the Art Ross and the Hart, Ovie wins the Richard and Pearson awards. And so they dance. We’re still waiting to see what Ovechkin’s equal to Sid’s Cup win will be. Alexander’s pursuit of a championship, Sidney’s defence of his, and their continued rivalry will continually be fun to watch, and is easily the best rivalry in the NHL today. It’s Canada vs. Russia, tradition vs. new school, team vs. team, and man vs. man, all wrapped into one ongoing showdown. Their 2010 Olympic showdown will be the latest chapter, and perhaps the most exciting for fans thus far. It’s one thing to have the hopes of a whole city on your back in the case of an NHL team, but entire countries? If the NHL can’t sell that to Americans, then tearing fans away from the baseball diamond and football field for the hockey rink is a fruitless endeavor anyways.