The 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend has already been memorable, from Alex Ovechkin’s charades during the draft, to Brian Elliot’s selfie, to Shea Weber’s 108.5 mile per hour slap shot. While Ovechkin, Elliot and Weber are all great players — and in Ovechkin’s and Weber’s cases, likely first ballot Hall of Famers — none of them are the face of the league; that distinction belongs to Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, who is absent from this year’s festivities.
In 10 years in the league, Crosby has played in exactly one All Star Game in 2007, which is the same amount as immortals such as Manny Legace and Yanic Perreault. Many factors have been outside of his control: the 2006, 2010 and 2014 Olympics canceled the game those years, the lockout canceled 2013 games, and Crosby was hurt during the 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012 games. Crosby’s serious concussion issues led to notable dampers on the 2011 and 2012 games especially, but this year was inexcusable.
Crosby pulled out at the last minute with a “minor injury” and was nowhere to be found during All-Star Weekend amongst his elite peers. I’m not saying he needed to put himself at risk of further injury by playing and/or taking part in the skills contest, but would it have been too much to ask for Crosby to show up and take part in media day and be on the bench during the skills contest with his fellow players? I really don’t think so, especially for someone who is the most important player in the league.
Generational type players like Crosby and Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux before him are held to higher standards for a reason. The phrase “to whom much is given, much is expected” applies perfectly to Crosby. No one is saying he hasn’t worked harder than anyone else to make himself great, but his natural ability is second to none. Having those abilities means embracing the responsibility that comes with them as the face of the league, and that means sucking it up and taking part in league events like All-Star Weekend.
“Sid the Kid” is now a 27 year old who needs to do a better job as an ambassador of the game, the way the greats before him — particularly Gretzky — have. The NHL is the “fourth league” in pro sports and needs every chance it can to get positive publicity. Having the face of the league nowhere to be found on All-Star Weekend doesn’t do anyone any favors.