Crosby or Ovechkin?: Choose your superstar wisely
Doctoral discertations could be written on the analysis of this question. Stat comparisons ad infinitum. Ability – or lack thereof – to raise the play of those around him. Endless queries into leadership capacity.
BEWARE: Hockey purists, the following statement may prove painful and offensive.
Why, you say? Well, Stanley Cup championships are won in much the same fashion as a great hit movie: select blockbuster, knock-em dead stars and surround them with a complementary, talented supporting cast and voila! Ocean’s 11 is born. Crosby and Ovechkin have the kind of talent that wins championships, and I feel that both will have their names on the Stanley Cup at least once before their careers end. Just as Gretzky and Lemieux both made it.
So now, with the issue of winning behind us, the second point to consider when forming a team is marketability. Fans want to win. Fans also want to see hockey players worth watching.
Alexander Ovechkin brings all that in spades. His dynamic style of play, focused on brilliant goal scoring and hard-hitting grit, can spark the imagination of hockey crazy towns like Montreal or expansion regions like Atlanta and Phoenix. The Russian also possesses the type of personality that will attract wide-ranging attention from the American audience. His quirky sense of humor, exuberant celebration of all goals scored for his team, and his unique sense of style will endear him to a country where hockey is often found in the shadows of football and baseball. His performance at the All-Star game alone indicates that he understands this.
True, Sidney Crosby is a superb hockey player. Not only does he create incredible plays, but his ability to drive to the net and initiate scoring chances is unparalleled. And where even Mike Milbury recognizes Ovechkin’s “grunge” style, Crosby is the boy next door – perfectly coiffed, cleanly attired, and blessed with natural good looks. That may be well-received in Canada, where hockey is held above all else. But I fear that American households will find him bland compared to the antics we tend to expect from our heroes. Think Tom Brady and girlfriend/supermodel Giselle Bundchen. Or TO dramatically crying over the press’s criticism of his beloved quarterback Tony Romo.
Ovechkin bridges the gap between traditional hockey values and the American fascination with individuality. He dazzles on the ice; he charms off of it. Consider his amazing goal in Phoenix. And the humorous Segway trip with his teammates. Moreover, he’s true to hockey in his demonstrated understanding of the team. He celebrates Brooks Laich’s 17th goal of the year (sorry – no video yet – but he was jumping up and down) with as much vigor as his own 50th.
And when questioned during his rookie year whether he envied Crosby’s opportunity to play with Mario Lemieux, Ovechkin responded [and I paraphrase]: “Why do I need Lemieux? I have Matt Pettinger.” Ovechkin understands the value of team, regardless of pure talent. That’s what keeps him within the realm of hockey.