Crosby vs. Ovechkin: Five most annoying things about the Rivalry

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NHL--Sidney Crosby vs Alex Ovechkin, rivals again.
NHL--Sidney Crosby vs Alex Ovechkin, rivals again.

The Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry is one of my favorite things in the history of hockey.

Well, at least in concept. 

The idea that the NHL had its own Magic vs. Bird – flash vs. fundamentals, charisma vs. workmanlike focus, Moscow vs. Cole Harbour – is something that frankly lifted the League from the depressing abyss of the 2005 lockout and set it on course to being the multi-billion dollar success it is today.

No, it wasn’t solely their rivalry that accomplished this: Outdoor games, new rules and an incredible run of luck with the markets playing for the Stanley Cup were just as important. But after the trap years sucked the life out of the game’s offensive stars, these two arrived at the right moment, with the right rivalry.

I wrote about the rivalry at its 10-year mark within the context of Connor McDavid vs. Jack Eichel, and it’s still amazing to look back at how Crosby vs. Ovechkin dominated the sport from their rookie year on. You couldn’t have cast two rivals better, from the personalities to the geography to the style to the fact that they were drafted to franchises that already didn’t have any love lost between them. 

I’m always going to have time for this rivalry, even 10 years on and even after they’ve both said all they’re going to say about it. But there’s no question that over the last decade, there are facets of Sid vs. Ovi that have become irksome at best and painfully annoying at worst.

Here are the five most annoying things about the Crosby vs. Ovechkin Rivalry:

1. There Is No Comparison

Crosby is a center. Ovechkin is a winger. They rarely face each other on the ice. The performance of one is independent of the performance of the other. And yet every time they play, there’s that “Tale Of The Tape” NHL.com will toss up that’s supposed to evoke a heavyweight boxing match, when in fact Brooks Orpik had more impact on Ovechkin’s games against the Penguins than did Crosby.

But that's because NHL.com takes the rivalry and ...

2. Shoves It Down Our Throats

This rivalry has been Exhibit A in the case of “can you have too much of a good thing?”

The constant promotion of this rivalry by the NHL, from building a Winter Classic around it to the annual “Rivalry Night” hype, actually turned fans off from enjoying it. Part of this isn’t the League’s fault, given that the Crosby vs. Ovechkin rivalry was also pushed to the moon in the Vancouver Olympics, for example; but do you know how hard it is to make people not want to watch the two most watchable players in hockey?

To go back to Magic vs. Bird for a second: Magic won five titles in his first 10 years, and Bird won three. Crosby vs. Ovechkin have one Cup and two conference titles between then in 10 years. Meanwhile, other stars aren't visbile thanks to their spotlight. 

Which brings us to …

3. They Suck All The Air Out Of Other Rivalries

The actual comparison for Crosby would be Jonathan Toews, who has the hardware if not the stats. The fact is that the attention poured onto the Crosby vs. Ovechkin rivalry, and the players themselves, sucked the air out of the room for other rivalries and other stars to blossom. It was overhype at the expense of other hype.

4. The Unbalanced Success

This “rivalry” has been cooling down ever since Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated the Washington Capitals in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs – a legendary series that included the double-hat trick game between the two – and he collected a Stanley Cup ring and two goal medals while Ovechkin hasn’t even played for any of them.

How much you blame Ovechkin or circumstance for this is a personal choice, but once it was established that Crosby had the team success while Ovechkin collected individual consolation prizes, the rivalry was knocked off balance.

Finally …

5. The Ugliness

From the start, the fact that Crosby was a “good Canadian boy” while Ovechkin was “the flashy Russian” is one of the things that fueled the rivalry. The problem is that it also fueled the ugly xenophobia that Russian players face in the NHL: the usual clichés about selfish play, nonexistent defense and ability to lead a team.

Most of this manifested in the mouth of King Xenophobe Mike Milbury, who called Ovechkin everything from “a dog” to lazy. But he wasn't alone.

The ugliness cut the other way too, of course: Who can forget the pacifiers handed out at Capitals/Penguins games in D.C., or the assorted “Cindy Crosby” mockery that greeted him?

None of this is saying that ugliness shouldn’t be found in intense rivalries, because it’s naïve to think it won’t. (And, frankly, it enchances them.)

It just became tiresome, contributing to the overall Sid vs. Ovi fatigue that so many NHL fans continue to feel.

Enjoy Rivalry Night everyone!

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