Barry Trotz Might Sound Like A Hard Ass, But He's Absolutely Right In Saying Sidney Crosby's Injury Was The Result Of A "Hockey Play"
I don't want to make it seem like I don't realize why the play in question is a source of controversy. I enjoy watching Sidney Crosby perform as much as the next guy, so when a player of his caliber is laying face first on the ice during the most anticipated series of the postseason I can totally see why people are inherently predisposed to go looking for answers.
I just don't understand why that answer that has to ignore the most obvious characteristics of the sport with which it took place. Why can't the reason for an awkward, cringeworthy hit simply be that hockey is an insanely fast and physical game that is played on a slippery surface by people that are balancing themselves on razor sharp pieces of steel? Though arguable, it's fair that Matt Niskanen's crosscheck to the head of Sidney Crosby drew a 5 minute major and a game misconduct. His intent certainly wasn't worthy of that much discipline, but the damage done to the all important victim probably was.
That said, I simply can't explain why some can't separate a headshot from the circumstances that ultimately caused it. I'm not going to go the "you've never even played the game" route. That's partially because it's a nauseatingly self important path to go down, but mostly because you shouldn't have to know how to ice skate to realize that it's human instinct to outstretch your hands when someone is going full speed and unexpectedly falls towards your legs at a moment's notice. What ultimately ended Sidney Crosby's night was a "hockey play", but you don't need to have left home at 14 years old to pursue a professional career to understand the basic physics of it.
Now, whether or not the Alexander Ovechkin's slash that - in combination with some harmless skate-to-skate contact - sent Sidney Crosby sprawling to his unfortunate fate was a "hockey play" is a much more difficult question...with the same damn answer. I know this is going to sound like it was written by someone that starts every story with "back in my day..." and thinks concussions are a rite of passage, but whacking the best player in the world on the arm to disturb an obvious scoring chance in a must-win playoff game is very much a part of hockey. It's certainly not the most respectable part, but there is such thing as a "good penalty" - especially when the penalty goes uncalled and even if the term does completely distort the definition of the word "good".
I'm not condoning Ovechkin's reckless stick work, because the carelessness that caused the reverberation off the back of his much more successful rival's skull was inexcusable. However, the original contact was as non-malicious as the swinging of a piece of carbon fiber at another person can possibly be. If all went as planned then Sidney Crosby would have been manning the off wing on a two minute powerplay for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Shockingly, things don't always go as planned when you put freakishly athletic specimens in an enclosed, volatile space with a "whatever it takes" attitude and the glory of hoisting the greatest trophy in all of sports on the line.