For the Bruins, the Eastern Conference finals are in the rear-view. The Stanley Cup is the focus, but Sidney Crosby and his agent, Pat Brisson, can’t say the same.
Instead of accepting defeat and beginning his offseason with dignity, Crosby is pointing fingers at Zdeno Chara. Crosby claims that Chara intentionally hit him in his previously broken jaw in Game 1 of the teams’ series two weeks ago. Yes, two weeks ago.
Evidently, a relatively routine scuffle in front of the Boston net was severe enough to render Crosby speechless for nearly half a month. But don’t worry, Crosby was heroic enough to finish out the series without a scratch — including on the stat sheet.
The Penguins submitted slow-motion footage of the hit to TSN, and suddenly, Chara is enemy No. 1. The Toronto Star’s Damien Cox said that Chara “delievered a blow square to Crosby’s injured jaw while the Penguins star was being held by Bruins centee Patrice Bergeron.”
Would NHL fans care about the hit if it hadn’t been dealt to the player who many believe to be the second coming of Wayne Gretzky? Probably not.
The real-time footage of The Shot Heard Around the World of Hockey shows nothing out of the ordinary — no hate-driven left hook, no whistle. In fact, Crosby’s grip on Chara’s shoulder pads is what instigated the entire three-second incident.
While Crosby and Brisson maintain that Chara’s hit was intentional, it remains unclear why, if his jaw was still considered a target, it was not properly protected. Crosby sustained his injury when a he took a teammate’s slapshot to the teeth and was out from March 30 until May 3 — Game 2 against the New York Islanders. There is absolutely no doubt that the original injury was horrific. But Crosby took a chance by removing the guard on his helmet designed to prevent further damage to his jaw. In doing so, he told the league he was ready to return to the normal physicality of the game.
“[Team doctors are] comfortable with it coming off, being hit and things like that,” Crosby said after he was cleared to remove the guard.
Had Crosby kept the guard on his helmet, this would more than likely be a non-issue.
The shortened NHL season has not been a good look for the league, and the tattle-tale kid on the playground mentality from the sport’s most high-profile player sure is not helping. Complaints of such insignificant issues only weaken arguments that genuinely try to increase safety in professional sports. The NHL has real issues to deal with regarding head injuries, and here is a two-week-old talking point surrounding a clean hit.
Until Crosby can learn to keep his focus on the game — playing the way the world knows he can and not complaining when he doesn’t get special treatment — he will always be Sid the Kid and not a respectable man or player.