Did Sidney Crosby & Alex Ovechkin Save the NHL Following the Lockout?

November 28, 2023

In a recent interview with The Athletic, Alex Ovechkin expressed a bold sentiment, stating that he and Sidney Crosby saved the NHL during a critical period. Let's delve into their impact and evaluate the validity of Ovechkin's claim.

Ovechkin's statement harks back to the challenging times when he and Crosby entered the league. The NHL had just endured a full season cancellation, and the Stanley Cup was unclaimed. Fans were disheartened, having lost a beloved sport. The Pittsburgh Penguins, on the verge of leaving Pittsburgh, found a lifeline in Crosby's arrival.

Sidney Crosby, the first overall pick, emerged as a beacon of hope. His presence, even during his junior games televised nationally, created a buzz. Memorable moments, such as the World Juniors in North Dakota, showcased the exceptional talent these players brought to the league.

Though Ovechkin and Crosby faced constraints playing in the same conference, they engaged in epic playoff battles. Heralded as the next Magic and Bird, they became the flag bearers during one of the NHL's darkest periods – the aftermath of a debilitating lockout season.

The lockout season was marred by disinterest, with games relegated to niche networks like the Outdoor Network. Ovechkin and Crosby played pivotal roles in rekindling fan engagement, dragging the league out of the shadows of the dead puck era. Their influence is evident in the league's current standing, even if there is still room for growth.

Ovechkin and Crosby are credited with propelling the NHL back into the limelight. While the league may not have reached its pinnacle, the duo's impact is undeniable. National TV coverage on major networks in the United States has become commonplace, a testament to the enduring legacy of these two iconic players.

In retrospect, Ovechkin's assertion that he and Crosby saved the NHL holds merit. Their entry into the league coincided with a tumultuous period, and their contributions played a pivotal role in resurrecting interest and elevating the NHL to new heights. As the league continues to evolve, Ovechkin and Crosby stand as pivotal figures in its resurgence.