The NHL has enjoyed steadily increasing popularity in recent years, resulting in a successful expansion to Vegas this year, with more new franchises on the way. A large part of the NHL's recent success had be traced to the fact that for well over a decade now it has had two very marketable superstars who have maintained their status among the league's best players and who have provided a faces to the game that are instantly recognizable and familiar.
Though they are the two biggest names in hockey, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin occupy very different roles. Crosby is largely reserved, mainly sticking to the script in interviews and not letting too many details about his personal life get out to the public. Ovechkin, on the other hand, is a complete livewire. He has gotten in trouble for his over the top celebrations, and often says wild, unpredictable things in interviews. He has criticized the league with regards to its position on the Olympics, and is generally not afraid to speak his mind.
It's not surprising, then, that of the two players, there are a lot more incriminating photos of Ovechkin on the internet than there are of Sid. Ovi loves to party, loves to hang out with controversial political figures, and used to spend his time in the company of multiple women at a time in his younger days. Crosby is less liable to wild out, which makes it all the more surprising to see pictures of him completely bombed. There's no doubt that Crosby and Ovechkin have been good for the league overall, but here are ten photos of each of them that the NHL would rather you didn't see.
20 Ovechkin: Throwing Up A Peace Sign With Putin
It's definitely normal for the leader of a country to congratulate one of its star athletes, but people in the NHL have been getting uncomfortable with Ovechkin's frequent posing with Vladimir Putin, and his recent declarations that he is a full-blown supporter of the Russian president. Unlike the NBA, the NHL is not a very political league, as we saw when the Pittsburgh Penguins decided to accept an invitation to visit the White House, not wanting to cause trouble like the Golden State Warriors did. With talk of Russia meddling in the U.S .federal election still swirling, it could be seen as unsettling that Putin has closer ties to Ovechkin—who plays in Washington—than any other NHL player. The NHL would rather its players just stayed away from politics altogether.
19 Crosby: Crying On The Ice
While the league would probably rather that Ovechkin tone down some of the hyper-masculine behaviour at times, it seems like they would probably rather the opposite from Sidney. Given that hockey is marketed and appreciated as a pretty manly sport, where players get stitches in the dressing room and aren't afraid to take a puck to the face or to drop the gloves, it isn't really a good look when the sport's most famous star often gets injured, complains a lot about missed calls, and often looks like he's crying in photos. Over the years, in long playoff series, Crosby has obviously proven that he is a pretty tough guy who is willing to do whatever it takes to win, but the NHL would probably rather there weren't photos out there like the one above, making him look like a coward.
18 Ovechkin: Drunk With Two Girls
Given that Ovechkin recent got married to the absolutely beautiful Anastasia Shubskaya, you'd have to think that the days of him posing drunk in clubs, looking confused with multiple women are behind him. I don't think there's anyone out there that would really blame Ovechkin for his women-chasing tendencies in his younger years as well. For a guy raking in millions of dollars playing hockey in the best league in the world and maintaining his status as perhaps the best goal scorer around, it would have been out of character for him to not have satisfied his appetites. At the same time, when you're such a high-profile person, you've got to be conscious of situations where you're liable to be photographed and make an effort to have your photo taken, so as not to fall out of favour with young fans.
17 Crosby: With A Head Injury
This is definitely a big one for the NHL. As is the case in other professional sports leagues in North America like the NFL, the NHL is having a hard time figuring out what to do about the ongoing problem of head injuries and concussions. It seems like every week, a new study comes out that outlines the danger of repeated blows to the head, especially in younger people. At the same time, the NHL wants to keep the game exciting and fast with big hits. It's definitely not a good luck for the league that its most prominent player has some of the worst concussion problems of anyone, with some people predicting that he'll have to retire at a young age because of his history with concussions.
16 Ovechkin: With Steamy Crosby T-Shirt
Honestly, this one is pretty funny and obviously in good humour, but the NHL would probably prefer for the rivalry between its two biggest stars to be taken a little more seriously, in order to drive ratings when the two teams meet. For example, soccer is the world's most popular sport, and part of what drives its continued popularity is its focus on pushing rivalries. The personal rivalry between Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, while denied by both players, is the subject of a long, extensive Wikipedia article, and their respective teams are fierce rivals as well. NHL fans definitely do tune in to watch Ovechkin's Capitals take on Crosby's Penguins, but the two players don't seem to have a genuine dislike for one another, as shown by the above photo of Ovechkin making fun of the idea of being disgusted by Crosby.
15 Crosby: Looking More Than A Little Drunk
When you look at the stars of the major American pro sports leagues, we really don't know all that much about Sidney Crosby in comparison. While we know that he's dating a woman named Kathy Leutner, much less is known about her than, say, Ayesha Curry. Because of Sid's secrecy with regards to his personal life, it somehow seems shocking to see him having fun and acting drunk like a normal person. Here he is with his face red as an apple, grinning like a crazy person. For most people, this would be a pretty standard shot, but in an NHL context, it's an unusual glimpse behind the scenes in Sid's life, showing that he isn't just a robot and does indeed have some semblance of a life outside of hockey.
14 Ovechkin: Backstage With Drake And Lil Wayne
This is definitely a photo you probably wouldn't see Sidney Crosby in, as he seems more like the kind of guy to listen to country music or pop. It's hard to say whether the NHL would want to promote or hide a photo like this. On one hand, Drake is considered to be a Canadian musical icon at this point, and hockey is still thought by many to be a Canadian game more or less, so it's likely good for Ovechkin to be solidifying that relationship. On the other hand, Lil Wayne, who has some pretty sexist lyrics and has spent time in jail, is arguably not a great role model for the NHL's young fans. This one could go either way, but it's definitely a funny photo, whatever the NHL thinks of it.
13 Crosby: Screaming While Drunk
The more photos I see of Crosby drunk and partying, the more I think that he is either really bad at holding his liquor, or that he's just a generally annoying guy to be around when he's having a good time. Crosby is pretty famous for screaming on the ice as well, as he screamed Jarome Iginla's nickname "Iggy!" right before scoring the goal that gave Team Canada the gold medal in the 2010 Olympics. Crosby has probably also calmed down lately as well, as he turned 30 fairly recently, and also has a long-term girlfriend that people are predicting that he's going to marry. It's not really a good look to be screaming that close to someone's ear, and the NHL probably wishes one of its biggest stars wasn't such a goofball.
12 Ovechkin: With Jersey Shore Star Pauly D
Ovechkin posing for photos with Drake and Lil Wayne while drinking backstage at a concert is one thing, but hanging out with Pauly D from Jersey Shore is quite a bit worse. Pauly D is largely famous for having a weird haircut, a bad tan, for being obnoxious, and for a laughable career as a DJ. That's kind of the opposite kind of person than a league like the NHL would like to associate with. Ovechkin is super-talented, ambitious, and is genuinely funny and likeable. Running into a reality TV star and posing for a quick photo is one thing, but too many photos like this makes it look like Ovechkin actually hangs out with this kind of dudebro, which is definitely an image the NHL would rather avoid.
11 Crosby: At A Justin Bieber Concert
This is a pretty funny one. Crosby took a lot of flak when this photo came out, and it's understandable why. Look at that girl on his left. She's like ten years old and is wearing a Lakers jersey and a hat that says "Swaggy." Everybody else is wearing a Bieber shirt, which is what Crosby seems to be holding awkwardly in his hand, maybe afraid to put it on because he knew this photo would be sent around. Crosby and Bieber actually have quite a bit in common. They're both from small Canadian towns, and they are two of the most recognizable Canadians in the world. No matter why Crosby was at the show, it's not a very good look for him to be revealing his support for a bratty young pop star. Come on, Crosby, get yourself together.
10 Ovechkin: Very Drunk Wearing Bad Jeans
This is about as bad as it gets for drunk photos of Ovechkin. He can't even keep his eyes open, and he's wearing some very ugly jeans that have more holes than denim. The other guy in the photo is Andrei Markov, who is wearing a bad hat to cover his bald head. Both men are wearing tank tops in what seems to be a club, and they're both looking like they are messy drunk and unable to string a sentence together. There's no doubt that the NHL likes to promote its players as being fun-loving and relaxed characters behind the scenes, but stuff like this is taking it too far, as it looks like it could be from the opening scene to some very low-budget adult film.
9 Crosby: Sad Pube 'Stache
The playoff beard is one of the great NHL traditions. For the unfamiliar, NHL players will stop shaving their face while they make their playoff runs, which creates this cool situation where, by the Stanley Cup Finals, players look like grizzled, caveman versions of themselves, which really gives the impression that they're leaving it all out on the line, fully committed to winning. Some of the best playoff beards in recent memory have been from Brent Burns, Kris Letang, Paul Mara, and Joe Thornton, who liked his so much that he has kept it around. Now look at Crosby, who has spent more time in the playoffs than just about anyone recently. In this photo, he has just won the Stanley Cup, and is pouring champagne into it. You could practically count the hairs on that moustache. It's kind of an embarrassment to the history of the playoff beard.
8 Ovechkin: With Five Girls
Look at that sneaky grin on Ovechkin's face. He has been pretty vocal about his tastes in women in the media. According to this article, he prefers Russian women over American women, because they are in better shape and have better figures. He goes on to say that there's a reason that when Americans visit Russia they end up staying for longer than they expected, whereas when Russians visit America they end up leaving as soon as they can. That's kind of a ridiculous thing to say, and indicates a national bias, but there's no doubt that Ovechkin considers himself to be a kind of connoisseur of women, and feels entitled to their appreciation. Now that he's married, we won't be seeing photos like this anymore, but there's a surprising amount of photos out there of him posing with more women than you could count on one hand.
7 Crosby: Pool Party At Mario Lemieux’s House
Now, to be fair, it's true that Crosby is nowhere to be seen in this photo. The reason it makes it on to this list is because it's a party that Crosby was at, and so we can only imagine what he and his teammates were getting up to as the night went on. This photo was taken at a party at Mario Lemieux's mansion right after the Penguins won the cup. There are slideshows on YouTube showing all sorts of other photos from the party, in which the players clearly got too drunk and started swimming with the cup in Mario's swimming pool. It's hard to imagine a better time than that: winning the biggest prize in your sport and then celebrating at the giant house of one of the game's all time greats. However, the photos also give off a debaucherous vibe that the league can't be proud of.
6 Ovechkin: In Another Nightclub
For a guy who has been one of the best hockey players in the NHL for the last decade or so, Alex Ovechkin sure seems to spend a lot of time in bars and nightclubs. Years ago, the NHL did have more of a reputation for being a partying league. Players would smoke cigarettes in the changing rooms and crack beers on the bench, and way less attention was paid to things like good nutrition and fitness. Now, though, young players in the league show up with incredibly strict, detailed fitness routines, which is part of why so many of them are incredibly fast skaters and in such good shape. Right now, Ovechkin is tied for the NHL scoring lead, even though he's easily the oldest guy in the top 5. He's truly a unusually gifted athlete, able to party with the best of them while also maintaining his spectacular play.
5 Crosby: With Donald Trump
It's hard to say how the NHL felt about this entire debacle in the end. After Steph Curry and his Golden State Warriors decided not to visit the White House in protest against the policies of President Donald Trump, many people familiar with the NHL assumed that Crosby would follow suit. Canada is a more liberal country than the United States, and it seemed out of line with Crosby's character to ostensibly show his support for an administration that is so right-wing. Crosby, however, decided to accept the invitation, considering it a great honour. This went over very poorly in Crosby's hometown, with many of his fans feeling upset by the decision. It might be best for the NHL to do away with the tradition of the Stanley Cup winning team visiting the president altogether, for all the trouble it causes.
4 Ovechkin: Partying On A Boat
It's funny how classic the very idea of this photo is. You're a promising young hockey prospect playing in Russia who gets drafted first overall into the NHL. You have a great first season, winning the Calder Trophy and scoring fifty goals. Before you know it, you're signing huge contracts and endorsement deals, and then you're on a boat somewhere, drinking a beer and pointing at the camera with your arm around a girl in a bikini who is smoking a cigarette. The NHL is sometimes considered to be one of the least fun-spirited North American pro sports leagues, but throughout his time in the league, Alex Ovechkin has been directly challenging that, as he has never been afraid to let loose, even when it results in some sloppy photos.
3 Crosby: Buddying Around With Ovechkin
As I talked about earlier, it is important for the NHL to market its two stop stars as having beef with one another. Whenever the Capitals and the Penguins face off in the playoffs, it results in highly increased ratings for the league, as fans want to keep track of who will go down as the greater player between the two of them. So far, it's clear that Ovechkin has some catching up to do. Their career point totals are nearly identical, but Crosby has played fewer games, so if he's able to stay healthy he'll end up on top at this rate. Crosby has also won more international competitions, more Stanley Cups—Ovechkin has none, of course—and more personal awards. Ovechkin should be mad about this, so photos where they appear to be buddies aren't good for the league.
2 Ovechkin: More Boat Partying
These photos emerged in the summer of 2010, after the Washington Capitals made an extremely disappointing early exit from the NHL playoffs, continuing the trend of their inability to make a splash in the postseason after frequent regular season success. It's not that Ovechkin is a weak playoff performer by any stretch of the imagination. The problem for the Caps has been that they've never had quite the right mix of players all playing at a high enough level at the same time. After the loss, Ovechkin truly drowned his sorrows, partying like a wild man on a boat, dancing in his bathing suit and posing with multiple fun-loving women. He's now 32-years-old and time is certainly ticking away on his chances to win a Stanley Cup. If he doesn't do it soon, he's be resigned to a lifetime of partying his troubles away.
1 Crosby: Looking Super Woozy
While Alex Ovechkin can often be seen looking woozy from a mixture of alcohol and wild partying, Sidney Crosby is more likely to be caught looking under the weather due to head injuries. In this photo, he's being escorted off the ice by one of the Pittsburg Penguins' trainers after suffering yet another blow to the head, compounding his concussion problems, and threatening his career in the NHL. Sidney Crosby is likely the best all-around player in the league, but he has never played a complete season somehow, and has missed more than half of a season multiple times. If the NHL wants to continue marketing Crosby as one of the league's best stars, they'll have to continue to quell the notion that he's injury prone and suffering as a result of concussion problems.