“Who owns this game?” It started out as a (terrible) marketing pitch for the World Cash Grab of Hockey™. But after the final of the World Cup of Hockey, that question has been answered emphatically. And with an exclamation point.
Sidney Crosby. Sidney Crosby owns hockey. The most valuable player of the 2016 playoffs and the most valuable player of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, the best player on the planet today, owns hockey. It’s all his and it sure looks as though nobody is going to take it away from him anytime soon. Sidney Crosby also owns two Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, one World Championship, two NHL scoring championships, two NHL MVP awards and a Rocket Richard Trophy. Hell, let’s even throw in the Mark Messier Leadership Award. And the way he played in the playoffs last spring, don’t dismiss the possibility he might even win a Selke Trophy one day.
Lady Byng? All right, that’s a stretch. A big one.
Canada, by virtue of its nail-biting 2-1 win over Team Europe in Game 2 of the tournament final, does have some minority ownership here. After all, the players with the maple leaf on their chests have won five of the past six best-on-best tournaments and are the reigning World Champion. But Crosby now has a mind-boggling 25-game winning streak in a Canadian uniform – including 16-0-0 in best-on-best competition, a golden goal in 2010, an insurance goal in the gold medal game in 2014 and, now, the scoring title and MVP award at the World Cup.
Captain Canada indeed. There are only three players in the history of the game who have been named most valuable player in at least one NHL season, one Stanley Cup playoff tournament and a World/Canada Cup. One is Wayne Gretzky. Another is Bobby Orr. And the third is Sidney Crosby, a player who will be joining the previous two in the Hockey Hall of Fame someday. That’s because not only is Crosby the best player in the world, he’s the best player in the world at the most crucial times.
“I just think about serial winners and that’s what he is,” Team Canada coach Mike Babcock said of Crosby. “When you look at guys like him and (Patrice Bergeron) and obviously (Jonathan Toews) and guys like that, in the biggest moments they’re better. They can’t help themselves. They’re addicted to winning and they just make it happen.”
That has certainly been the case for Crosby in Canadian togs. The World Cup marked the eighth time in Crosby’s career that he has played for Canada. In those events, he now has five gold medals and a silver and has 32 goals and 67 points in 54 games. Of the 51 players who have averaged better than a point-per-game in their careers, Crosby is on a list of only 10 other players who have better than a point-per-game regular season, in the NHL playoffs and in international competition – Gretzky, Orr, Mario Lemieux, Peter Forsberg, Mike Bossy, Eric Lindros, Gilbert Perreault, Pavel Bure, Bobby Hull and Evgeni Malkin are the only others in that group. And, not surprisingly, they either all do or will in the future have plaques in the Hall of Fame.
“It’s special,” Crosby acknowledged after the game. “I think I don’t have to look too far to think about how tough it was a year ago starting the season. I think I appreciate this a lot. It’s not easy. To be a hockey player playing for Team Canada and be with this group of guys has been a lot of fun. To be able to win it is special for a lot of reasons, but yeah, it’s been a great month.”
There are some wonderfully talented players in the NHL right now. Patrick Kane is the league’s reigning MVP and Connor McDavid, entering just his second year in the league, is right on everyone’s heels. It would not be a stretch to think he might even win it this season, depending upon whether or not he can get the Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs. But right here, right now, at this moment in time, there is no one better than Sidney Crosby.
“Sid is unbelievable,” Babcock gushed. “He’s great to be around. I’ve been real lucky I’ve been three times and we win every time. He does it right. He works hard. He doesn’t complain. If he gets 15 minutes, he doesn’t say a word. If he gets 20 minutes, doesn’t say a word. If he misses three shifts in a row, he doesn’t say a word.”
Actually, when it comes to speaking of himself, Crosby doesn’t say a whole lot of anything. His play, though, has spoken volumes. In a tournament where there was too little intrigue, save the play of Team North America and the final three minutes of Game 2 of the final, Crosby went to the top of a mountain and screamed at the top of his lungs.
“I own this game!” he said with his play. Again.