The celebrations were raging along with a debate which will never be resolved. Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins had become the first team for nearly 20 years to retain the Stanley cup.
A spirited Nashville rearguard had been broken along with Music City’s collective hearts thanks to the brilliance and sheer bloody mindedness of skipper Crosby , who bagged a goal and six assists in a tremendous series.
Undoubtedly the finest player in the world right now, another gold star added to a continually glimmering resume for the two time Olympic champ.
But as all the platitudes flew about following his team’s coronation and his award of series MVP for the second year on the spin (winning successive Conn Smythe gongs in an era when the salary cap was supposed to inject parity across the board is some achievement), one Pittsburgh newspaper decided to just throw it out there: Who’s the greatest North American sportsman? Crosby or Tom Brady. One wears skates. The other throws deflated balls.
At one point LeBron James and Mike Trout, the best players in the NBA and MLB respectively, were also thrown into the mix. It’s a rubbish debate. Same sport? Okay. Yet trying to compare and contrast the merits of James and the Cavs with Crosby and the Pens is a waste of time.
We are, however, in a time where former Irish plumbers turned mixed martial artists are getting the opportunity to become boxers for one night only, so perhaps a smidgen of credence should be applied.
All aforementioned athletes are superstars. Brilliant performers who’ve been there and proved themselves. Yet the ice hockey pantheon has two long-term residents in the peerless Wayne Gretzky (below) and Mario Lemieux. Two absolute cast-iron legends.
Sidney Crosby: 3 Stanley Cup wins, 2 Olympic gold medals, 1 World Championship gold medal and 1 World Junior Championship gold medal pic.twitter.com/SPXygUAa7g— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 12, 2017
Is Crosby on course to join them? The franchise’s official Twitter have no doubts , dubbing their leader the ‘GOAT’.
Outsiders will look at the numbers and nod approvingly. Speak to those inside the game and the answer is strikingly different.
“Do I wish I had the talent that Sid has? Of course, but to real hockey players, I feel there needs to be an entire package to call someone the greatest, “ one former pro told me. “Many outsiders probably think he deserves that title, but I’m pretty sure you would find a different opinion among hockey players.
“There is a lot of talk about the protection he receives from referees, and the favorable calls that he get “He is strong, and he find a way to win. He is a leader on his team.
“A guy like Gretzky, he was so well respected across the entire league because of his sportsmanship on and off the ice, on top of his incredible work ethic and talent “I think Crosby’s potential to be the greatest ever could still come to fruition if his attitude changes.”
The social media comedians had a field day – a photoshopped picture with Crosby holding a massive ref’s whistle aloft instead of the gargantuan Stanley Cup trophy certainly tickled me. Perhaps it’s because he’s the best, the most successful, the star man.
This Preds fan has a message for Sidney Crosby! pic.twitter.com/tNpk07l2J5— WSMV-TV, Nashville (@WSMV) June 11, 2017
Crosby’s peers , however, have been outspoken. “Crosby cheats,” said San Jose’s Logan Couture following Pittsburgh’s Game Two win last year after a face-off row flared up .
“He gets away with it.” Bending the rules isn’t a crime yet it can blur the notion of sporting perfection. “For him to win three Cups puts him amongst the greats of the game,” said Penguins owner Lemieux after watching his team bag glory in Nashville’s own backyards following that dramatic, late Game Six win.
Whether the Canadian ,who could also land an overall NHL MVP award, will become the best ever remains to be seen. Yet looking at images of a crazy pool party celebration at his mansion last week, I don’t think he cares.
Five-time Sodi World Series (SWS) UAE champion Atef Al Barwani sped back into form on Monday night in round two of the Senior Cup at Dubai Kartdrome.
After an incredible run of five dominant years in the SWS ended in 2015, local karting legend Al Barwani had been out of the spotlight for the past year. Now it appears the Emirati is back on top form.
In race one, Al Barwani worked his way up to the leading pack, waiting for an opportunity to strike.
He said: “I was a bit lucky because two drivers in front were fighting so I said, ‘Let me just wait until the last lap because I know something is going to happen’.”
He took advantage of the scuffle to dive ahead on turn two, taking the lead and holding on until the chequered flag, just 0.652 seconds ahead of defending Ramadan Challenge champion Rami Azzam.
Race Two featured a reverse grid for the top 15 drivers of race one, which put Al Barwani and Azzam in the middle of the grid. This did little to deter either driver, as they picked their way through the field and toward the front.
Romaldo Labrooy also had a great run, moving from eighth on the grid and into the lead. He got clear of Azzam and Al Barwani and glided in for the race win, crossing the finish line 3.484 seconds in front of Azzam, with Al Barwani another 2.055 seconds back in third place.
After the points were tallied from both races, Al Barwani’s total of 73 points gave him a one-point victory over Azzam on 72 points. Labrooy earned third place with 67 points.
In the Masters category of the Senior Cup, Dario Rubio was outstanding in both races, finishing the night on 52 points to take top class honours, three points clear of Mohammed Ismail in second place with 49, with Gianluca Elmosi taking third on 44 points.
Competing against the top international junior racers at the 2017 SWS World Finals last month put Kamal Agha in top form for his return to Dubai. Despite a mediocre result in qualifying, Agha went two-for-two in the Junior Cup, taking both race wins on the night.
It was back-to-back wins for Yoshihide Muroya as he earned a double repeat with consecutive wins in a season to claim top spot overall.
The Czech Republic had a pair of pilots on the podium for the first time ever with Petr Kopfstein and Martin Sonka in second and third.
Muroya’s Final 4 time of 55.288 was a convincing 0.558 of a second ahead of Kopfstein, who earned his career-first podium in only his second World Championship season.
Meanwhile, Sonka, earned third for his second podium placing of the year.
The result escalated the drama of an already thrilling season as Muroya edged ahead of Sonka in the standings to take the top of the overall leaderboard for the first time in his career, with two race wins to one triumph for the Czech pilot.
However, they are tied in the points standings at 30 each as the eight-race World Championship heads toward its midpoint with the fourth stop in Budapest, Hungary on 1-2 July.
“We are really happy to win again in Chiba, and I want to thank everybody here in Japan for their support. I had some luck, but in the end some of the other pilots made mistakes,” said Muroya, whose previous 2017 win was at the April stop in San Diego.
“We have another five races, so we need to continue as we are doing. Our team setup is quite good, and we must stick with the same tactics, stay with the plan and go forward as normal to win more races.”
Tickets for the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship – including the fourth stop in the heart of Budapest, Hungary on 1-2 July – are on sale now.
For more information on tickets and all the latest, visit www.redbullairrace.com.
Results Master Class Chiba 2017:
1. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN), 2. Petr Kopfstein (CZE), 3. Martin Šonka (CZE), 4. Matthias Dolderer (GER), 5. Michael Goulian (USA), 6. Matt Hall (AUS), 7. Pete McLeod (CAN), 8. Kirby Chambliss (USA), 9. Mikaël Brageot (FRA), 10. Juan Velarde (ESP), 11. François Le Vot (FRA), 12. Peter Podlunšek (SLO), 13. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA), 14. Cristian Bolton (CHI)
World Championship standings after three races:
1. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 30 pts, 2. Martin Šonka (CZE) 30 pts, 3. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 23 pts, 4. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 17 pts, 5. Pete McLeod (CAN) 14 pts, 6. Michael Goulian (USA) 14 pts, 7. Juan Velarde (ESP) 13 pts, 8. Peter Podlunšek (SLO) 12 pts, 9. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 10 pts, 10. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 10 pts, 11. Matt Hall (AUS) 8 pts, 12. Cristian Bolton (CHI) 4 pts, 13. Mikaël Brageot (FRA) 4 pts, 14. François Le Vot (FRA) 3 pts