Saturday, March 7, 2009

Crosby vs. Ovechkin: Who's the Hero?

What would Batman be without The Joker?

Or better yet, Crosby without Ovechkin?

In the world of comic books, we are captivated by the epic struggles of heroes and villains. Each year, millions of people go to movie theaters to see how Batman and Spider-man will thwart their nemesis’ plans and save the day.

The idea of hero vs. villain is not limited to comics and movies though; it also exists in sports. For the same reasons we watch superheroes battle their sworn enemies, we also watch athletes do battle with rival teams and players.

If Stan Lee ever needed inspiration for a sports-themed comic book, he might want to look at the NHL for the next great hero vs. villain saga. The battles waged between Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin can be easily described as epic.

Part of the reason the Crosby and Ovechkin rivalry is so highly debated is because the two players fit the hero-and-villain stereotype.

Like any good hero-and-villain combination, Crosby and Ovechkin are opposites that are looking to achieve the same goal through different means. They play for rival teams and for rival countries (we all know how much Canadians love Russians) and their playing styles are near-opposite.

Crosby’s skill set is based around passing, playmaking and skillful puck handling. Crosby is already captain of his team and has led his team to the finals last year. Crosby’s team rebuilt faster than Ovechkin’s team, and he has consistently frustrated the Capitals since he entered the league. Crosby’s current sidekick is Evgeni Malkin, a Russian, who some consider to be a better overall player.

The knock on Crosby?

He’s a whiner who spends as much time on the ice as he does begging referees for penalties. Crosby is sometimes portrayed as a yipping dog who barks but doesn’t bite if you’re staring at him face-to-face. Crosby is the spoon-fed face of the league and has been overexposed to the hockey world.

Ovechkin specializes in brutalizing opponents with body checks, firing laser-beam shots and has redefined what an NHL power forward should be. He beat out Crosby for the Rookie of the Year award and has revitalized the Washington hockey landscape. Ovechkin embodies the American dream, well, the multimillion dollar American dream, coming from a strange land and becoming an accepted member of the Washington community. Ovechkin’s sidekick is Alexander Semin, a Russian, who some believe is a more skilled player.

The knock on Ovechkin?

His post-goal celebrations are "disrespectful" and his hits are sometimes “dirty.” Oh, he’s also Russian, and if the past 50 years of hockey history have taught us anything it’s that the Russians are the epitome of hockey villainy.

So given the pros and cons of each player, and your intimate history with each, who’s the hero and who’s the villain?

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