The NHL season is upon us, furnished with one of the great litmus tests in the history of the game. His name is Sidney Crosby. His bio lists him as 5 – 10. Maybe thats with his skates on. This observation is significant.
Because Crosbys lack of size, and how quickly he excels at the NHL level, will tell we fans whether the new NHL is worth watching or not. Crosby is the poster boy for the renewed game.
Lets face it, he would have had a very difficult time competing in the big mans game that ruled NHL rinks before the lockout. It took fellow-midget Martin St. Louis years to adjust his game. He started by surviving, then began thriving around season three. But the timeline is tighter for Crosby.
Its RIGHT NOW!
The NHL promises its post-lockout game will be faster, skilled, high-scoring, a place where the small quick forward wont get beaten up before he can beat the goalie. And they need Crosby to thrive right away.
The Number One overall pick, taken by Pittsburgh, a team in dire need of a new arena and possibly some public cash.
Hes friendly, polite, immensely talented. He has the potential to capture the America fans attention like no one since Gretzky. That means cash for more than just Pittsburgh. But will he be able to do it?
Wait and see. The way the referees are calling obstruction and roughing penalties so far, he should get a decent shot.
Hes playing with Mario Lemieux and that can make his rookie stats balloon like a Don Cherry shirt-collar. But danger lurks just a silent whistle away.
Crosby has already hit one such wall in his career, last year. Crosby had an unbelievable regular season with Rimouski. His team made the Memorial Cup in London. But thats where he discovered the free-wheeling style he enjoyed in the Quebec League could easily be negated by an officials indifference.
Ottawa and London players repeatedly went for his head, his arms, his legs. They grabbed him as he tried to make his patented behind-the-net spins.
The referees let them get away with it. Some commentators urged Crosbys teammates to start fights to defend him. They didnt give in to that traditional (Neanderthal?) way of thinking. That hurt Crosby, his teams chances, and the fans enjoyment.
The NHL was met with resounding indifference of its own during the lockout. NHL fans might have missed the idea of hockey, but had grown bored of the clutch-and-grab, big-guy-smash-head, grinding style of play.
So the NHL realizes it needs excitement.
Watch Mr. Crosbys progress. Hell start fast. The refs will help that by enforcing the rules.
But the big litmus test is how he finishes…or, perhaps, how the NHL will LET him finish.