Those who write about hockey for major media outlets aspire to be called and given the respect accorded to “journalists.” The vast majority of those writers, reporters, and commentators merit the title. Then again, some don’t, at least not all of the time. Hockey is an intense game, and sometimes the results on the ice strip away one’s journalistic sense of objectivity, and one becomes less a journalist and more a “fan” in the literal – “fanatic” – sense of the term.
And sometimes, one finds the rare instance that transcends bizarre and careens into irrational screed.
One almost expects Rod Serling to present a “Twilight Zone” monologue to preface this morning’s offering from Rob Rossi on the events last night that forced Sidney Crosby from Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals. With barely five minutes gone in the contest, the Penguins were attacking in the Capitals’ zone, and this happened…
Rossi’s unhinged rant on the play (one hesitates to call it his “take”) can be read in full here. But the lede says it all… “Alex Ovechkin shouldn't play another game in these Stanley Cup playoffs.”
Let’s leave for a moment (which Rossi does in short order) the fact that the injury Crosby sustained appeared to be the product of a collision with Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen in which Niskanen cross-checked Crosby as he was off balance after skating through the top of the Washington crease (Niskanen was charged a major penalty for cross checking and a game misconduct).
He saves his best (or worst, depending on where you stand on journalistic detachment) for Alex Ovechkin. First, he accuses Ovechkin of “carelessly lift[ing] his stick into Crosby’s head, forcing the NHL’s sturdiest skater to stagger into Niskanen.” But he immediately contradicts himself and claims that “Ovechkin, who can’t beat Crosby on the ice, decided to remove him from it (emphasis added).”
Then Rossi, who seemed to write this as a stream of enraged consciousness, doubled down on the theme of premeditation, wondering out loud about “what that closed-door meeting called by Capitals players was really about after their blowout defeat in Game 2…”
Not satisfied with that, he then triples-down (if there is such a thing), attributing malice to the Caps as a team and calling them liars before the fact “if they say it wasn’t about eliminating Crosby.” Can you “quadruple-down?” If you can, Rossi does, accusing (okay, “doubt[ing] very much there wasn’t an intent” on the part of) the Capitals of injuring Crosby intentionally.
So, in the space of barely 100 words, Rossi describes a scenario in which the Caps are blown out against the Penguins, meet in their dark lair to devise a dastardly plan to eliminate the game’s best player because they can’t beat him on the ice, then – in the space of four seconds (go ahead, time it from the moment Crosby crosses the blue line with the puck until he collides with Niskanen…we did) – the Caps spring their nefarious plan. In this telling, you can almost hear the Capitals bench shouting in unison, “NOW!!!” as Crosby skates by the players’ bench.
I can’t defend any player who uses his stick indiscriminately, but when Rossi describes Ovechkin as “filthy,” who uses “his magic wand” with the intent to injure, who “holds high the stick he often swings at opponents,” let’s not forget that Crosby has his own history of creative uses of his stick.
There is Crosby doing his “piñata” thing on Buffalo Sabre Ryan O’Reilly…
There is Crosby taking a whack at the hand of Ottawa Senator defenseman Marc Methot and shattering his finger…
And sometimes, he doesn’t even need his stick, as Boris Valabik found out…
Crosby’s body of work as far as “dirty” plays is concerned could almost be its own YouTube channel (search on “Crosby dirty plays”…bring a lunch, you’ll be a while). But hey, for “The Face of Hockey,” as Rossi describes him, it’s just part of the package, so to speak.
But this isn’t a “your player is dirtier than mine” contest. Let’s keep our eye on the ball…or puck. No hockey fan, not even a Washington Capitals fan, could look at the scene of Crosby, face down on the ice with his legs splayed behind him, and not feel sick. This time of year is for the best players to play their best, and no one – not players, fans, coaches (or journalists, for that matter) – want to see any of the best players on earth injured in their quest.
I write in this space as a hobby and an unabashed fan of the Washington Capitals. Journalism is not my day job, and it is something to which I have no aspirations. In a way it makes me respect those for whom it is their calling that much more. I lost some of it for Rob Rossi resorting to this cheap attack that sounded like a fan at a sports bar far more than it did a professional who has a “decade of experience” covering the sport.