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Thumb's up for feud

Kovalchuk-Crosby battle is not a bad thing for NHL

Posted: Monday January 9, 2006 3:25PM; Updated: Monday January 9, 2006 7:54PM
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Ilya Kovalchuk is getting criticized for pointing at Sidney Crosby, but it added a nice little spark to Friday's game.
Ilya Kovalchuk is getting criticized for pointing at Sidney Crosby, but it added a nice little spark to Friday's game.
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Say what you will about the NHL's emphasis on regional rivalries, but there is an intensity that is inherent in playing the same opponent multiple times. The hope is that rivalries emerge, which of course is a natural byproduct. Also, though, personal battles become a part of the fabric.

All agree this is positive. But when new manifestations of those grudges actually occur, there is an outcry. Take, for instance, Ilya Kovalchuk calling out hot-shot rookie Sidney Crosby by pointing at him after scoring a power play goal Friday while Crosby sat in the penalty box.

Many deemed this as a "breach of the hockey code of conduct." While unique in its public, showy nature -- and certainly more germane to this era of athletes at large, what with Sharpies and cell phones part of staged NFL celebrations -- the incident's bigger question is whether or not having two of the game's brightest young stars waging a crowing contest is a bad thing.

First, think of the alternatives. When NHL tough guys taunt one another and carry on with punch-up theatrics -- think back to a much-younger Tie Domi holding up the imaginary heavyweight title belt after many of his fights -- nobody seemed to mind. It was part of his shtick.

And when the always-animated pugilist Dave "Tiger" Williams used to ride his stick in celebration after a goal or taunt an entire bench before and/or after a fight, that was, well, Tiger being Tiger. No one got too hot and bothered by it.

Go back even further to Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull, skilled players of yesteryear.

Hull didn't need to point at an opponent to make his point. His way of calling out an opposing player was to whistle a high, hard slap shot to serve notice of his intent.

With Mr. Hockey himself, of all that he left the game, the "Gordie Howe hat trick" -- a goal, assist and a fight all in the same game -- lives on as prominently as any of his accomplishments. Imagine that, an icon of the game known for demoralizing opponents with his attributes, whether they be offensive or physical, including well-placed elbows and high sticks to send a message.