In Defense Of Sidney Crosby

I’m the last person I ever thought would be writing this article, and that is why I have to write it.  Because I have never, ever been a Sidney Crosby fan.

And I still am not.

Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby (Flickr/Dan4th)

Obviously as a Red Wings fan living in the U.S., it isn’t hard to think of about 27 legitimate reasons to dislike the guy.  Two hard fought Finals, not to mention his dream-sinking, cloud-kicking, overtime goal against the Red, White and Blue in the last Winter Olympics…

No, a Crosby fan I am not.

But I have to respect the guy.  And the reason is simple:  He works hard.

Sid is talented enough that he could just set himself on cruise control and  easily roll to a few Cups and a place in the Hall.  He is so much better than nearly everyone else on the planet who plays the game.  But he doesn’t.  Cruising, I don’t think, is in Sid’s vocabulary.

With Sidney, it doesn’t seem like he is in competition with another team, or teammates, or anything else besides himself.  I know I am not the first to make the observation, but it seems like year after year, he mechanically picks one part of his game that he feels is lacking and hones in on it until he’s better at it than anyone else.

He began by working on the faceoffs coming out of his rookie campaign.  Then he started shooting more, and passing less.  Then he started scoring more, and started working on the more intricate parts of his two-way game.  I don’t think a Selke is out of the question for his already crowded mantle.

And despite all the dissecting that we as hockey annalists do, I sincerely feel like no one is more aware of Sidney Crosby’s game than Sidney himself.  A few games ago, people were noticing that he hadn’t taken a shot for two or three games.  “Crosby held Shotless.”  You know, that kind of hoopla.  Then suddenly he takes something like 26 shots over his next two games, scoring a few goals in the process.

Once this guy figures out how to flip all his gears on at once, no one is going to be able to stop him.  The NHL is going to have to pass a rule to have him play on a skateboard or something to help the other teams keep up.

He’s working on deflections now?  The third goal is Terrifying.  Absolutely terrifying.

Every summer when he comes back, he is better than he was three months ago, when he was already the best in the world.  It’s that kind of dedication to a craft that makes a talented person special.  He’s not at home, swimming, or hitting up the club scene.  He’s working.  We see it time and time again in football.  A kid with the raw talent to be great, but the second he cashes that first paycheck he loses focus and drive, and soon enough he’s on a lift, getting rotated out of town for a fifth rounder and a prayer.

Sid never fell into that mold.  It’s the work ethic and will to win that sets Sidney Crosby apart from his peers.  That “first one on, last one off” mentality that he has probably had since he was three or four.  This is the guy I would want my kids growing up to and emulating.  As good as a guy like Ovie is, he isn’t the guy I want my kids looking after.  I don’t want USA Hockey to adapt changes to their program to crank out a few AOs.  I want just one Sidney.

So when I read articles about the over-exposure of Sidney, about how the League should be focusing on other super stars, well, I can’t help but sigh to myself.  Don’t you guys get it yet?  This is the guy we needed representing the League.

And that is an important, but ultimate, distinction.  Maybe he isn’t the guy we all want.  But he is the guy we need.

There’s a million reasons not to like the guy.  But mostly, I feel that people are aggravated because he does everything right.  He’s so level-headed and so darn good, and it’s hard for me to swallow as well.  He’s the same age as I am – we both turned twenty-three last August – and while I am sitting here blogging about hockey and teaching myself to play guitar, trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, Sidney is out there carrying an entire sport on his back without wincing.

Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby ©Stephanie Cohen/THW

And the guy can’t even grow a beard.

When he came into the League, a lot of people accused Sid of diving and whining, etc.  And I was one of those people.  But if we’re being honest, those of us who have watched hockey consistently have watched Sidney grow up and grow out of those things.  It’s so easy to forget just how young he was.  Of course some of his bad habits from Juniors crept into his pro game initially.  But he identified those things, and made positive changes.

And he continues to do so to this day.

Do I love Sidney Crosby?  Not by a long shot.  I generally can be seen rooting against him at any given opportunity.  Go Red Wings.  Go Flyers.  Go Team USA.  Go Caps.  Go whatever.  But in the back of my mind, I will always be thankful for being able to watch a player of this magnitude grow up and grow into his own skin, turning into one of the best hockey players to have ever lived, right before our very eyes.  I’ll be thankful that he didn’t flop and that he didn’t blow it like so many other young stars have in the other big sports.  And I’ll be thankful that he was here in time.  When the game we all cherish and love needed it the most.

Sidney saw the League limping out of the lockout, and quietly said to himself “everybody chill…  I got this.”

So the next time you are talking about Sidney Crosby receiving too much exposure from the NHL, complaining that Mike Richards or Ryan Miller should be given some of the spotlight too, just slow down and try to imagine the League trying to scrape its way back to prominence without him.