Sidney Crosby gets special treatment. This statement should not come as a surprise to anyone who watches NHL hockey on the regular. Fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins captain defend it as he is the “best player in the world.” However, that should not make a difference when a player plays dirty. As a baseball writer, I watched the Washington Nationals lose their best player for three games for throwing punches at a pitcher who beaned him.
Crosby’s Special Treatment
Spearing of O’Reilley
On March 21, 2017, against the Buffalo Sabres, Crosby speared Ryan O’Reilley in the cup to take him out of the play. The referee didn’t see it, and the laughable “NHL Player Safety” division under Stéphane Quintal did not review the spear. It’s an obvious intentional strike, but the league did not issue any punishment to Crosby. This is compared to Brad Marchand receiving a two game suspension and a $109,756.10 fine for a similar spear to Jake Dotchin, and Leon Draisitl receiving a $2,569.44 fine for his spear on Chris Tierney. Both Marchand and Draistil took a Game Misconduct for their spears. Crosby, being much smarter about it, did it outside of the view of the referee.
Crosschecking Subban’s Head Into the Ice
However, the issue of Crosby getting special treatment from the league means he gets bolder with how he behaves. In last night’s Stanley Cup Finals Game 5, Crosby really hit the bottom of the well of acceptable play. In the last two minutes of the First Period, P.K. Subban missed a check on Crosby behind the Pittsburgh net. Crosby took Subban to the ice, and bounced Subban’s head into the ice five times before getting up. Referee Brad Meier stood next to the scrum and when Subban was able to get up, he gave the two players matching minors. Referee’s miss penalties. It happens, but it is the responsibility of the referees and the league office to protect the players, even from the antics of Crosby. Before the NBC announcer declared the call as matching minors, I was sure that it was 2:00 to Crosby for roughing and either a Misconduct or a Game Misconduct for striking a defenseless opponent. But because it was Crosby, it was a no call.
Throwing a Water Bottle
To further show his class as a player, while being up four-nothing, Crosby throws his water bottle onto the ice while the play was in transition from the Nashville zone past the Pittsburgh bench. Phil Kessel scored on the ensuing transition, making it a 5-0 game. Except, when a foreign object is on the ice the game is supposed to stop. And throwing something from the bench should be a bench penalty by rule. He told the referees and the press afterwards that the bottle slipped out of his hand, but even so it should have been 2 minutes for unsportsmanlike behavior. Yet it was Crosby.
He is treated special by the league and the referees, and it’s not good for the game. By not taking on ice action, the league has told him he can do what he wants. The concept of the league taking off-ice discipline towards the Pittsburgh captain is about as likely as me finding a gold brick in the mail today – I’d like for it to happen, but it’s not going to.
Mike Milbury‘s Unacceptable Reponse
More troubling than the league not taking action, is the commentary by NBC Commentator Mike Milbury during the first intermission. Saying that Subban deserved to have his head knocked into the ice five times is unacceptable. Milbury is an old time hockey guy, and that statement can stand for a lot in the situation with Subban. However, I do not envy any fathers this morning who were forced to explain that cross-checking an opponent’s head into the ice while in full mount is bad. I expect (most likely in vain) Milbury to face some sort of discipline from the Network for his comments.
This article was contributed by Last Word On Baseball writer Dave Mitchner. You can find his work and others on the LWOB site.