Sidney Crosby stands alone.
He is the NHL’s biggest star, he is the biggest name in the game. He is well liked by everyone who calls themselves a hockey fan. Certain hockey fans may say they hate him and fair enough. But Crosby is like the recently retired Mike Modano. When fans say they hate him, it’s because they can’t stand how often he torches their favorite team.
It’s not as if they truly hate him.
Surely not in the same sense that fans hate Chris Pronger or Alexandre Burrows.
Like it or not, agree with it or not, but Crosby is the poster child for the NHL, as he has been ever since he came into the league.
He was anointed as being the closest thing to the next “Great One” as he was heading into the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
Does he deserve that hype? Most likely not, as nobody can touch the great Wayne Gretzky. At the same time though, it is always difficult to compare players in different eras.
Crosby is without a doubt the closest thing we have to Gretzky in today’s game and the fact his concussion like symptoms have returned means the NHL is on the verge of a major, major loss.
Fans can debate that he’s not the best player, and there is room for that argument. Some fans to whom I spoke with mentioned Pavel Datsyuk’s name and the Red Wings star is without a doubt one of the top-10 players in the world.
But if Datsyuk was out with the injury Crosby had, his first game back would not have all of a sudden been put on national television like Crosby’s first game was against the New York Islanders.
The average fan, the casual fan, the mildly interested fan, whatever you want to call it, he/she knows the name Sidney Crosby.
There is a flare, there is a stature with Crosby. A big time player who has produced on the biggest stage. He’s an MVP, he’s a Stanley Cup winner and oh by the way, he has the highest points per game rate than any player in the league today.
He is what Aaron Rodgers currently is to the NFL, he is what Lebron James is to the NBA (pre- “The Decision”), and he is what Albert Pujols is to MLB.
Crosby is the guy.
The NFL would not be the same if Rodgers was forced into early retirement, likewise with Lebron and I can’t even imagine what a loss baseball would have endured if a 24-year-old Pujols were to have suffered a career ending injury.
For the most part, the top-4 major team sports in North America have been fortunate regarding injuries, especially to star players.
But losing Crosby would be the biggest blow in quite some time. Hockey has slowly but surely been improving in it’s popularity and a major reason for that is the way the NHL marketed the bajeezes (for lack of a real word) out of Crosby.
With him gone? The true fans will remain but the Penguins-Captials/Ovechkin-Crosby rivalry will go out the window. Not out the window for the die-hards and the season ticket holders, but out the window for the casual ESPN watcher who tunes in for playoffs.
There are plenty of elite players in sports.
But losing Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin, or any other elite player wouldn’t be the same as losing Crosby.
Fair or not, it’s how Crosby has been molded.
Without him, the NHL would certainly suffer a steep setback.