I live in Ohio, one of those “bellwether” or “swing states” that can be the difference in a Presidential candidate winning or losing an election. The same thing happens every four years: this place becomes a political hotbed and not a day goes by that I don’t have an election flyer in my mailbox or someone calling with an election survey. The saying is “As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.”
The election is over, but I think there’s another bellwether in the country, one who could dictate how things go–not in elections, mind you, but in this lockout. He’s what you’d call a “bellwether player,” someone whose actions could telegraph where the lockout is headed. Sidney Crosby would be that player.
Crosby’s the NHL’s poster boy, one of the most recognizable faces in the league. He was the first draft pick in 2005 after the lockout sucked away a season. He breathed new life into the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s loved by many, hated by a lot and respected by pretty much everyone.
Crosby’s been biding his time during the lockout, but he has spoken out on the league’s weak proposals and even attended a few negotiation sessions. He’s been keeping a keen eye on what’s going on between the two sides, but he’s also taking into consideration his needs as an elite hockey player. He’s recently been inquiring about playing in Russia and Switzerland. Okay, so a lot of players have been doing that. But if a player of Crosby’s caliber hits the road for Europe, what does that say about the status of negotiations? If Crosby seemingly gives up and heads overseas, it might be a signal that all is lost.
Another thing to consider: the comments made by Ian White and others have drawn harsh criticism from fans and hockey writers alike. What would the reaction be if Crosby had been the one to say those things? Would he be told to apologize and that his words are harmful to the talks?
When the owners complained about the caliber of players attending negotiations, they meant they wanted bankable names like Crosby across the table from them. But if Crosby isn’t there to grace them with his presence, the owners might be scared of losing their prized player and do anything to bring him back. Just like the state of Ohio, as Sidney Crosby goes, so might the lockout and the season.