Here and There – by Dominique Liboiron
I’ve tried to hold it in, but I can’t anymore. It’s like laughing in church. The more you try to stifle it the more it has to come out. I’ve suffered more than my fair share trying to keep my outrage to myself. I sat through the ridiculous commercials that do their best to pull at our heartstrings. Then, there are the nicknames. They are what really get my goat. I can almost put up with Sid the Kid, but not with The Next One. No, no more. The playoffs are here and I have to say it. Sidney Crosby is nowhere near as good as Wayne Gretzky.
Is Crosby a good hockey player? No, he’s a great hockey player, the best currently in the NHL.
His resume is very impressive. In his second season, Crosby won the Art Ross Trophy as the leading scorer with 36 goals and 84 assists for 120 points. He also captured both MVP awards: the Hart Trophy, which is decided by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, and the Lester B. Pearson Award, which is voted on by the NHL Players’ Association. The Penguins’ captain has a Rocket Richard Trophy, as well. While he may have a Stanley Cup under his belt, he’ll always be remembered in Canada for what he wears around his neck, an Olympic gold medal.
Am I a Gretzky fan? While I’m very impressed by his achievements I don’t consider myself one of his fans. I’m not here to promote or defend Number 99 nor am I here to trash Crosby. Instead, I want to state how much of an exaggeration it is to say Sidney Crosby is the next Wayne Gretzky.
I’m not basing my argument on opinion or preference. Let’s look at the data, the numbers, the truth.
Crosby’s best offensive seasons were 2006/07 when he led the league in points and 2009/10 when he scored 51 goals. This was good enough to earn the Rocket Richard Trophy as the top goal scorer, but keep in mind that he had to share it that year with Steven Stamkos.
Gretzky’s two best years were 1981/82 when he scored 92 goals and 1985/86 when he tallied 215 points. The Great One almost doubled what Sid the Kid achieved.
Crosby’s stats put him well ahead of what average NHL players accomplish. Gretzky’s stats put him well ahead of what great NHL players accomplish. Crosby and Gretzky are in two different categories. Number 87 is the greatest of his generation not the greatest of all time.
Crosby will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He’s a supremely gifted athlete, but he isn’t on the same level as a Wayne Gretzky, a Bobby Orr or a Jacques Plante. He’ll excel at the game, but he won’t redefine it.
His point totals, his captaincy, his awards – many others have done that, but no one has done it younger. That’s the one thing Crosby has over all the other NHL legends. No one did it younger.
Do you wonder why there Crosby is called The Next One? It’s because the fans need heroes and young hockey players need role models. The NHL needs the Crosby/Ovechkin rivalry to sell tickets, sportswear, outdoor games and advertising. All this generates interest in the product the NHL has to sell.
Perhaps Crosby’s great accomplishment is yet to come. That would be to get the league to crack down on head shots and start taking concussions seriously. The NHL still has a long way to go.
It’s time the league does more to protect hockey players from head injuries. Not only does the league stand to lose other star players to concussions, like Eric Lindros, but they also have a moral obligation to prevent head injuries. Plus, it’s just good business sense to protect your assets.
Some say Gretzky’s legacy is that he made hockey a major sport in the U.S. Others think it’s that he increased players’ salaries or that he took the game to new levels of excellence. All three contain elements of truth. But hockey is just entertainment. A much more worthy legacy would be to have helped prevent life-altering injuries.
Crosby might surpass Gretzky yet.