You’ve likely seen it by now if you’ve watched this year’s Stanley Cup Final.
The NHL created a commercial showing a star player of one championship team giving the Stanley Cup to a star of a different championship team. Entitled “Handoff,” the ad appears to try and honor the history of the game while adding more aura around the Stanley Cup – the oldest championship trophy in sports.
On paper, it’s a great idea. Unassailable even. But in execution, it just feels wrong. Well, at least to me, as a Capitals fan.
The commercial starts with Wayne Gretzky lifting the Stanley Cup as a member of the Edmonton Oilers. Then Gretz gives it to Patrick Roy. Roy hands it to Martin Brodeur. Brodeur gives it to Patrick Toews. Toews hands it to Sidney Crosby. And Crosby… oh no. Crosby hands it to Ovechkin?!?
For someone who has been an ardent participant of the Capitals-Penguins rivalry since the mid-90s, this two-second animation made me feel awkward turtle and I imagine it did the same for a lot of you, too. To me, this imagery is what it would be like if the NHL was played in the Upside Down.
Sure, over the years, Crosby and Ovechkin have played the role of besties at times – such as at a recent NHL Media Day or the 2017 All-Star Game where they were Metropolitan Division teammates.
But that’s always felt for show, right? The real Crosby-Ovechkin relationship is a rivalry. One defined more by their contempt for and competitiveness with each other. Like that time Crosby complained to a referee about hats being thrown on the ice for an Ovechkin hat trick. Or when Crosby and the Penguins did not shake hands with the Capitals after losing the 2011 Winter Classic. The NHL is known for its handshakes and sportsmanship after fierce competition – yet Crosby couldn’t do the bare minimum for an Ovechkin team.
These two future Hockey Hall of Famers even almost fought each other in a 2018-19 regular-season game.
“We’re not best buddies,” Crosby admitted of his relationship with Ovechkin in 2020.
So I love the history and Bob Dylan cover in this commercial. I love the NHL’s recognition of its greatest stars. But it’s super weird when I see a photoshopped Sid and Ovi (where their limbs move but their faces stay the same) figuratively giving each other backslaps for winning the ultimate prize when they had to scratch and claw to get past each other during those Cup years .
The Ovechkin-Crosby rivalry may get jovial and gentlemanly in the future as the two accomplish more history and their teams’ fade from serious Cup contention, but until then, please stop playing this commercial after nearly every break in play because it’s disturbing me.
Screenshot courtesy of NHL/YouTube