Has NBC Gone Too Far In the Crosby/Ovechkin Rivalry?

Aside from the fact that I already despise the media-created rivalry between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, it annoys me greatly that they have decided to bring the “rivalry” to the Olympics.  The Olympics, as I understand it, is where players try to obtain a medal of some sort for their country, most likely the gold medal. Thus, players are trying to win out of pride for their respective countries.

Photo from Beauty Playin' Eh on Flickr

However, on the first dayof Olympic hockey, there were comments about Ovechkin’s master plan to win the gold medal in retaliation of Sidney Crosby winning the Stanley Cup. Supposedly, it would make Ovechkin even happier to accomplish this in these Olympics because they are on Crosby’s home-ice.

The rivalry has been elevated somewhat because of NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury and the way he describes Crosby’s play in contrast to Ovechkin’s play.

Milbury is under attack from hockey fans and even his co-analyst, Jeremy Roenick for his controversial comments, specially about Alexander Ovechkin. He’s made comments describing Ovechkin’s playing style by saying, “If it looks like a  dog, barks like a dog, it is a dog.” He even referred to Ovechkin as “the other guy” when he appeared in the same sentence as Crosby during the first say of competition.  Even more recently, Milbury criticized Ovechkin’s attitude, saying it is “just every day is another day at the beach for this kid.” He juxtaposed this attitude with, of course, Sidney Crosby, who is “professional” and “workmanlike.”

Roenick quickly came down on Milbury’s comments, but Milbury continued. He went on to talk about how Crosby has a Stanley Cup ring and Ovechkin doesn’t. He then proceeded to question whether Ovechkin can handle the captaincy of the Capitals down the stretch. Ironically though, he must have forgotten that Crosby received the “C” on Pittsburgh his rookie year. I wonder how ready Milbury thought he was to lead the team then, since Ovechkin has been on the Capitals for over three seasons.

When it came to Russia’s loss against Slovakia I cringed. I cringed because I feared the insults from Milbury on how Ovechkin’s performance. I was waiting to hear that Ovechkin can’t win for his team but Crosby can. After all, Crosby got the game-winning shootout goal against Switzerland, and even though Ovechkin also scored in his team’s shootout, they still lost. Thankfully for my ears, Milbury was not at the post-game desk after that game. NBC probably anticipated the shenanigans that would have occurred.

It’s one thing to like one player over the other player; after all, to each his own. But it gets out of hand when people who are not even Capitals fans get irritated at the anti-Ovechkin tirades. A post on Philly Sports Forums even shows disdain for Milbury’s comments criticizing Ovechkin:

“…Milbury should be fired on the spot. They have one of the best players in the game on National TV and pretty much rag and embarrass him the whole time.”

This is a sports forum from Philadelphia showing the same feelings as a Caps fan would. It’s bad when Philadelphia and Washington, DC can agree.

It’s obvious when a guy is trying to be “outspoken” or “controversial”; or in other words, trying to be Don Cherry. If I was to provide one piece of advice to Milbury, I would say  just know your sport and speak your mind, and keep the antics out of it.

Angie Lewis
Angie represented The Hockey Writers at the 2011 NHL Winter Classic and is credentialed for Washington Capitals home games. She is a NHL Contributor for SB Nation's "NHL Scores & More" and covers high school hockey for The Washington Post. Angie attended American University where she studied broadcast journalism.

10 Comments

  1. And on Sunday, Milbury was touting the accomplishments of Ovechkin while Roenick was preferring Crosby. THAT is infuriating. If you’re gonna play you take one side and I take the other – then be consistent. Milbury has also said that he watches Ovechkin play any chance he can because he is mesmerized or something to that effect at the skill and excitement. He more often says disparaging things about the Caps, he has no opinion of his own. Ever listen to John Madden on Monday night football? He likes one team, then as the other team does well, he likes that team and lists their strengths and when it turns, there he goes again. NBC has no desire to bring a good announcing team or middle rink guy in – they have a market on the Sunday NHL games and the Olympics, so they don’t HAVE to care what you think about the announcers/commentators, you’ve got no choice. BTW, Doc Emery said Ovechkin lost his tooth in Russia playing basketball, um, no. It’s hockey, even the ‘lifers’ don’t seem to know enough about the WHOLE sport to give a good reading. I’ll take Joe Beninati whether he is working a caps game or versus, that man studies the players and teams! Ovechkin v. Crosby? Why not hold Ovechkin up to Zetterberg instead?

  2. Mike Milbury cut his teeth on Hockey Tonight on ESPN with his partner Barry Melrose. At the time the Devils with Jacques Lemaire and Larry Robinson at the helm were coming on strong, headed toward three Stanley Cups. Both these “broadcasters” spent night after night bashing Lemaire, his system, his players, etc. Since then Lemaire’s coaching has endured, indeed flourished, while Milbury’s record as a General Manager is well shown with one look at the team he left behind. Comparing him to Don Cherry is like holding a candle to the sun. Cherry’s commitment to Canada, the troops in Afghanistan and old-time hockey is unbending. What is Milbury committed to besides himself?

    • Milbury’s an American ; )

      I suspect the epithet ‘Ugly American’ was coined with people like Milbury and ‘Goon Squad’ in mind.

  3. While I do agree that this rivalry is totally out of control, I do want to point out that I think that Milbury’s comments were taken out of context here. I watched this discussion unfold and, to me, when Milbury made the comment about “every day being another day at the beach”, I definitely didn’t think that he was criticizing Ovechkin. In fact, I though he was sayin how Ovie makes things look easy and that he just really enjoys playing hockey. His tone was 100% positive and I’d be really shocked if he meant it otherwise.

    To summarize:

    1) This rivalry is completely blown out of proportion and, unfortunately Crosby and Ovechkin have to deal with the fall out

    2) This article took Mike Milbury completely out of context and had another flagrant error regarding Crosby’s captaincy, as mentioned previously

  4. Shaune Stewart says:

    I get a kick out of Washington fans. You guys are so concerned about Ovechkin being so great but yet you have to try and discredit Crosby in order to do that. Ovechkin is showing now at the Olympics that he is not a team player and he does not do well playing with other star players. He looks just ordinary on the Russian team. He very well might not be their best player when it is all said and done. He was very selfish wanting to shoot in the shoot out three different times. He is not very good at shoot-outs so therefore instead of being a puck hog (as we have all know) he should have told the coach to send out a highly skilled player such as Datsyuk. Ovechkin is 1 for 6 this year where as Datsyuk is 6 for 11.
    Crosby by the way was name captain before the start of the 07-08 season. He just so happen to lead Pittsburgh to the finals that year and then as we all know won the Cup last season. There is no comparison when it comes to this debate. As painful as it might be for alot of people, Crosby is the best player in every aspect playing the game at this time. Let’s not forget the Crosby is in his fifth season and has never had legit wingers to play with.

  5. It’s definitely a media-driven rivalry, but I don’t know that these two guys like each other too much anyways… last year’s playoff series was epic, and the post-game comments showed that the 2 are more than just aware that they’re talked about in the media.

    That said, Mike C. above me made a good point. Rivalries drive ratings, ratings drive ad cost, ad cost drives the network. If a network has to add a spark to the fire to get the rivalry to the next level, they will. Kobe-LeBron is a classic example, seeing how they’ve played against each other only a handful of times. It’s hard to see them as “rivals” in the sense that people off the court think of them. But with Ovi and Sid, they don’t just play against each other a few times a season, they’ve met in the postseason. Lucky for us, it looks like they’ll be meeting for more than a few postseasons to come.

    And on a more related note, when Milbury and JR started this all up day 1 of the tournament, I thought Roenick was gonna walk off the set right there. JR’s never going to keep his mouth shut, which I’m sure NBC was counting on. That was classic.

  6. It’s a product of the popularity of both players. Whether it’s Manning-Brady, Kobe-Lebron, Bird-Magic, individual players are often how rivalries are built in sports.

    I think your last point was also very important. There’s a reason Don Cherry is as well-known as he is, despite so many people that can’t stand his antics. Milbury is working the same approach. You can gain popularity for a broadcast through being informative, or by being entertaining. By being harsh on Ovechkin, he’s attracted so much attention (including this article) that would have never existed had he rehashed the same analysis that Ovechkin is a great goal scorer and Sid is a great playmaker.

    I’m not saying I approve of the attempt at shock-value. I’d rather hear unique in-depth analysis, but like reality shows, a lot of people just want to be entertained.

  7. Firstly, I completely agree that Milbury seems almost incapable of discussing either Crosby or Ovechkin without unnecessarily dragging the other into the conversation, he is hardly the only hockey analyst who falls into this trap, yourself included.

    Case in point, Milbury’s questioning of Ovechkin as a captain has nothing to do with Crosby, they possess, as a myriad of articles and profiles have demonstrated, almost polar opposite personalities.
    It’s Ovechkin’s personality that Milbury is concerned about in regards to the captaincy not his age (though you should correct your statement that Crosby received the Pittsburgh captaincy as a rookie, although he was named an alternate captain in December of his rookie year he did not receive the captaincy until after the conclusion of his second season).
    And he is not alone, Washington coach Bruce Boudreau questioned Ovechkin’s decision-making earlier this season in the aftermath of a hit which earned him a two-game suspension, calling Ovechkin “pretty reckless” and admitting that would have to have a talk.

    As for an allegiance between Flyers fans and the Capitals’ faithful, you just named Pittsburgh’s to biggest rivals (real or imagined), two fan bases that have been burned by the Penguins so many times that they can always get together on Crosby bashing. And, since the American hockey narrative in particular has so tightly bound these two players together, for many fans trearing down Crosby means supporting Ovechkin.

  8. I totally agree with you here, and I would also like to add that the little guy who annoys the players between the benches shows the same bias, in that he loves all things Canadian and sounds as though he is having an orgasm everytime one of his boys displays the slightest bit of skill.
    This crap should not be allowed to continue, especially during International competition.
    NBC has failed miserably with their coverage, as well as their chosen analysts this time around, and I can only hope that major changes will be made immediately before the next round of hockey competition fires up, and/or JR pummels Milbury with his own damn shoes.
    Karma, baby…

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