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March 22, 2006

Don't forget, Sid's still a Kid


(MONTREAL) -- So Sid the Kid's a crybaby, huh?

At least that's what Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson thinks of Pittsburgh Penguins phenom Sidney Crosby, but he appears not to be alone in that department.

Montreal Canadiens defenseman Mathieu Dandenault said the same thing this week after playing against Crosby's Penguins and Alexander Ovechkin's Washington Capitals in back-to-back games.

Dandenault, after playing against Crosby last Saturday night, essentially reinforced what Alfredsson said recently, that Ovechkin takes his lumps like a man but Crosby complains to the refs every time he receives a perceived cheap shot.

Dandenault watched Ovechkin get knocked around early in the Capitals game against the Habs on Monday night, yet Ovechkin never made so much as a gesture to the referees. 

Instead, Ovechkin bided his time until an opportunity presented itself, and then he ploughed through Canadiens defenseman Craig Rivet while he had his head down concentrating on keeping the puck in the offensive zone.

"That's what I like about him," Dandenault told Journal de Montréal reporter Pierre Durcoher after the Capitals game. "Ovechkin isn't afraid to fight back, instead of just complaining to the refs like Sidney Crosby does. I fully agreed with what Daniel Alfredsson said about Crosby. Sidney has to realize that he's not playing in junior anymore. Dives don't work in the NHL."

I haven't watched every single one of Crosby's or Ovechkin's games, but I would imagine they get more or less the same treatment from opponents seeing as they are both clearly the best players on their respective teams.

The major difference between the two, however, is that Ovechkin is 20-years old and Crosby is only 18. A lot of people may have a tendency to forget that about Crosby, simply because he's been on the hockey radar for such a long time. His first newspaper interview was at the age of seven, and he was profiled in Sports Illustrated at the age of 16.

The two-year difference between Crosby and Ovechkin would already be huge in terms of physical development and maturity, however the more important comparison to make is where the two have been playing hockey the past few years.

Ovechkin played for Moscow Dynamo of the Russian Superleague for four years before coming to the Capitals, meaning that he began playing with and against men at the ripe age of 16.

Over those same four years, Crosby spent one season playing midget-AAA for the Dartmouth Subways, one season at Shattuck St-Mary's prep school in Minnesota, and two seasons of junior hockey with the Rimouski Océanic.

To say that Ovechkin was better prepared to play in the NHL this season would be an understatement of epic proportions. He's had to deal with shots from men who were afraid of a kid making them look bad for four years, and the Russian referees handling his games were probably no less inclined to look out for him as their NHL counterparts are.

Crosby was also subject to the same kind of treatment from opponents in junior, but he was more likely to get a call from junior and high school refs than he is in the NHL, especially when he berates officials with obscenities after every perceived slight.

Those outbursts, in my eyes, are a clear sign that Crosby has some maturing to do, as is the case for most 18-year-olds. But one area where he is mature is with the media, seeing as reporters have followed his every move for over half his life.

When told of Dandenault's remarks following Pittsburgh's game against Crosby's boyhood team in Montreal on Saturday, the phenom took the whole thing in stride.

"Guys are going to make their comments, and that's fine," he calmly replied. "I'm not going to get into a war in the media. I'll do it on the ice. I'm not going to talk about other guys. That's not how I operate."

That answer proves that off the ice, Crosby is mature beyond his years. His maturity on the ice is another matter, but he has several years to develop that.

So when judging Sid the Kid, it's important to remember that he's just that, a kid. It would therefore be wise to cut that kid a little bit of slack.

Arpon Basu, also of The Canadian Press, is a columnist for and the Montreal Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.


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