- A Pittsburgh Penguins Blog © 2009
Saturday, January 03, 2009

Sidney Crosby's Fight: What Was it and What Could it Mean for his Image?

Everybody's seen it already. With about three minutes left in the second period Sidney Crosby jumped Brett McLean off of the faceoff.

It's been called everything from courageous to cowardly, from motivational to a cheap shot.

So what was it? Was it a team captain standing up for himself and his teammates? Was it his attempt to bring the crowd back into the game and motivate his team? Was it frustration boiling over and causing Crosby to lash out?

Was it even a fight?

Usually fights involve two participants. Clearly, in this confrontation Crosby looked like he was the only player interested in fighting.

After the game Sid said that the desire to fight was mutual.

"I asked him to go and he said 'yes' and usually yes means yes... I guess he didn't take me serious," said Crosby.

McLean's teammates didn't feel the same way.

"That was just embarrassing," said Florida's Nick Boynton. "I can understand a little bit what he was trying to do, but that's a not a very professional move. You ask a guy to fight. You don't jump a guy when his head is down taking a face off. That's pretty immature and childish."

McLean himself was more diplomatic, saying: "Obviously he was trying to spark his team. I've been in a few pretty poor fights in my day, so that just goes into another one of those. He said something before the drop but I really didn't pick up on it. So, I kind of wish I had now. Like I said, everyone can understand what he was trying to do for his team. He's their leader, their captain"

But was the fight worth it? Did it accomplish whatever Crosby wanted it to accomplish?

That depends on what Crosby wanted it to accomplish.

If it was meant to motivate the team, it wasn't necessary. Seconds earlier Maxime Talbot and Gregory Campbell fought off the faceoff. Talbot didn't exactly win the fight, but he got the fans into the game and he showed the Panthers that any cheap shots would be taken care of physically.

Did Sid really need to get in a fight of his own?

Yes, a team captain - especially when that captain is Sidney Crosby - instigating a fight sends a much stronger message to the players and the fans than a fourth line player. Yes, he could have been showing leadership there.

But I don't think he was.

Crosby himself says that, in retrospect, it might not have been good idea.

"I would have been much better off, after seeing what happened, playing hockey because I didn't expect to be in there 20 minutes," said Crosby.

Of course, if Crosby thought McLean was a willing participant he probably also believed he would only be assessed a standard five minute fighting major, not the 19 minutes he was actually given.

Did McLean goad Crosby into the fight, hoping to get the Penguins captain kicked out of the game? It's possible and, if so, it worked. While a Crosby fight did stir up the crowd, a couple of Crosby goals would have done the same thing. Him sitting in the box is a good thing for the opposition every time it happens.

I think the fight was caused more by frustration than Crosby is willing to admit. With his team in the middle of a losing streak and down 4-1 Crosby wanted to stir things up, but he was likely also very frustrated. Crosby is very competitive and losing probably kills him. He couldn't take it anymore.

But was it a cheap shot? It depends on who you believe. If you believe Crosby, and believe that McLean said that he wanted to fight, then no. It's a legitimate hockey fight that McLean decided to back out of at the last minute. However, that's if you believe Sidney Crosby.

If you don't and you believe McLean who said he didn't hear Crosby challenge him, then it would likely be considered unsportsmanlike.

The referees definitely believed Sid was in the wrong as, in addition to the fighting major that was also given to McLean, Crosby was assessed an additional two minute instigator penalty along with two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct and a ten minute misconduct.

Looking at reaction around the Internet the Crosby haters have all fallen into the "cheap shot" club while Crosby's fans have been defending him unconditionally. Crosby is a very polarizing player so it is nearly impossible to find someone with a neutral view on this subject. Either you love Crosby or you hate him. There's no in between.

However, this incident, combined with Crosby's attack on Boris Valabik last month, have left a bad taste in many people's mouths. While Crosby was often hated for the attention he received from the league and the media, he is now heading down a path that could see him labeled as a cheap shot artist. Whether you feel that label is justified or not will depend on whether or not you're a Penguins' fan.

However, that sort of reputation is bad for Crosby and it's bad for the NHL.

The league can't be looking too fondly upon their golden boy getting the kind of negative media attention he has received recently. Crosby was always clean cut, always a role model, always someone parents and young fans could adopt as a hero. The NHL embraced this and, in an era where athletes take steroids and bet on dog fights and shoot themselves in night clubs, Crosby's clean cut image was a breath of fresh air. His recent actions could be tarnishing that image.

It's often been said that having too clean of an image is dangerous as any small mistake can ruin the public's opinion. It's possible that after this fight Crosby and his actions last month, Crosby can no longer be counted on to be "the good guy." Maybe he wants that.

However, it's also possible that these recent incidents are simply bumps along the road and that Crosby will return to his position as hockey's flawless savior. I believe the NHL would prefer it that way.


Anonymous said...

Looked more like Crosby was giving him a noogie.

Anonymous said...

it was a cheap shot! crosby sucks!!!

Damian Romano said...

Crosby's frustrated, that much is clear.

Anonymous said...

Crosby is a great talent, but that was a mugging,and a dirty play. McLean never saw it coming. If the shoe was on the other foot, they'd be hanging McLean from the nearest yard arm.


Penguins Experience said...

That's true. If things were reversed we would all be calling for McLean's head right now.

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