I hate Sidney Crosby.
Now, before that statement sets off a border war with our neighbors to the south (yes, we in Detroit can literally look down on Windsor, towards which generations of Motown Men have beaten a frenzied path in search of the famed Cheetah’s Lounge, home of the Forty — count ’em 40 — Jungle Maidens) let me explain that my frustration with the little fellow is on solid historical footing.
If you grew up in Michigan and played and love hockey — and I say we have as much a claim here to the game as they do in any of the outposts across southern Ontario — you understand the almost mythic hold that our Red Wings have had on local hearts. Canadians (some of them, anyway) apparently think that Americans don’t know Boom Boom Geoffrion, longtime number 5 with the Montreal Canadiens … from Boom Boom LaVoom, legendary number 23 of Cheetah’s 40 — count ’em, Forty — Jungle Maidens. They forget that we cut our sporting teeth here on a wonderfully successful NHL franchise that afforded us as real and passionate a grasp on their alleged national game as you’d find in any of their famed and farflung outposts — places like Moose Jaw, Nanaimo, and Saskatoon.
I threw in that last locale, of course, with a purpose. For it was the hometown of merely the greatest hockey player of all time … a man who made his claim to that title by skating circles around — and then around again — the best players in the hockey world for 25 years on a small pond of ice located just off Grand River Avenue on the near west side of our town. Let’s hear somebody top that rich tradition. And that brings us to the latest pretender to the throne of Gordie Howe … the afore-mentioned and personally reviled Sidney “Call Me Sidney” Crosby.
No question the kid is pretty good. Landing a Stanley Cup (how it hurts to say so, and I’m convinced he did it just to piss me off) at the Joe Louis Arena last spring, AND the gold-medal winning goal in the Olympics recently (see the previous reference regarding pissing me off) places a nice pair of feathers in Sidney’s propeller-spinning beanie.
But here it gets goofbally: It seems that for many Canadians it’s not enough to force foreigners to admit that ice hockey is THEIR national game; or to insist their team MUST win Olympic gold; even to field a team of women players who can smoke cigars, drink beer by the case, and beat the crap out of the Russian men’s team in a fistfight. They also seem to maintain a flaming NEED to claim the current “Greatest Player in the History of the Game” for their country. Of course, they — and we — had that once in the person of Saskatoon’s and Detroit’s #9. But that wasn’t enough … not current enough, anyway … for our galoshes-sporting and competition-nervous neighbors 25 years ago. Thus they had to foist a half-a-hockey-player, Wayne Gretzky, on the world as the then “Greatest Player of All Time” following Howe’s retirement from the game in the early 1980s. (Had Gretzky, who had no defensive game, and has yet to visit any corner in any official NHL rink, been a native of the USSR … Hockey Canada would have merrily mocked and quickly dismissed even a whispered claim to his world supremacy.) Still, Wayne it was.
But times change; paranoia rules. So now comes Crosby. By Canadian acclamation … via their own delirious appointment. The new Latest Greatest.
It was difficult enough that Howe had to survive bloody battle, wage an epic struggle with Maurice Richard to earn his heavyweight title. The universally acknowledged Greatest of All-Time circa 1955-85 lived to see his crown suddenly swiped from his head; humbled by manic Gretzkyites who simply had to have a then-current Canadian as the new Best of All Time, to keep up with increasing threats from foreign lands. And now Wayne-O is apparently being pushed aside for young Sidney and Crosbymania, so that Canada’s rewarded claims to hockey supremacy stay intact … and current.
A question. Why can’t they honor their history, and acknowledge that unmatched heritage, without periodically and frantically running to Keep Up With The Ovechkins? It makes them look … frantic. Unsure. Uncool. Insecure. As though running scared.
A suggestion. Win, even lose … without the weeping, minus the suicides. It’s enough … well, it’s enough to make you dislike poor little Sidney. (All right…maybe all that … and his personality.) I say give The Kid 20 more seasons … and produce a balanced and honest evaluation of One-Way Wayne over that time. And history, which subsists on emotionless perspective and the sure focus of the long-distance lens, will come back ’round to the man from Saskatoon … who made Detroit one of THE great hockey capitals of the world.