One of the positives of the NHL not being nearly as popular on a national scale as the other major American professional sports leagues is that certain negative characteristics of the league go somewhat unnoticed or simply don’t generate enough discussion to create controversy.
In the NFL, for example, every little detail is a point of discussion. From the catch rule to the tuck rule, there are constant minute rule changes implemented to make the game more technical and defined. In the NHL, meanwhile, dudes are still allowed to interrupt the game by duking it out with no interference by the referees until one of them falls down onto the ice.
One of the negative realities of the NHL that has flown under the radar for many years now is that the face of the league, and arguably the most gifted hockey player of all time not named Wayne Gretzky, is a massive asshole who consistently pisses off his opponents with his dirty play. Yes, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins has been a polarizing figure since entering the league, notorious for curtailing the faceoff rules and intentionally injuring players, among other negative practices.
A year removed from winning his second Stanley Cup and earning Conn Smythe honors as the top player of the postseason, Crosby’s chippy play is at an all-time high, with the center forward making headlines with two godawful displays of inappropriate on-ice behavior earlier this week, epitomizing why he’s such a polarizing figure.
First, there was this classless, cowardly move of spearing an opposing player in the crotch with his stick, possibly preventing said opposing player from having a chance at reproducing in the process. Unbelievably, Crosby avoided both a penalty and a suspension for the incident, leaving one to wonder as to what would happen to a lesser player had he done something of that ilk.
Mere nights later, clearly unfazed by his recent uncalled for action on the ice, Crosby did something even more heinous, this time nearly slashing off the end of an opponent’s finger with a ridiculously unwarranted hack with his stick.
Once again, the golden boy of hockey escaped with no punishment and was not apologetic at all about the incident after the fact, telling the media postgame, “I’ve gotten those before. They don’t feel good.” Wow, what remorse.
Sid the Kid is quietly establishing himself as the sports world’s biggest and baddest villain, mostly because he receives preferential treatment from a league hoping to gain more nationwide attention while avoiding negative publicity at all costs.
Imagine if LeBron James did something as violent and uncalled for as either of Crosby’s recent acts. He would be effectively emasculated by the national sports media. Instead, since the NHL isn’t nearly as popular as the NBA in the grand scheme of things, Crosby avoided significant criticism altogether.
It’ll be interesting to see if Crosby attempts to clean up his act now that his dirty antics have become severe enough to potentially warrant discipline, as that would be a terrible look for both himself and the NHL. Until then, Sid the Kid will bear the burden of being sports’ most subversive supervillain.