Lacing Up is a weekly column taken from an email conversation between Ashley Gallant and CJ. “Stoosh” Jiuliante. Stoosh is a former Faceoff Factor staff writer and a long-time hockey fan.

Ash: There is no love lost between Crosby and Ovechkin, that’s for sure, and the Pens-Caps game on February 22nd was a prime example of that mutual dislike.

After the game, Crosby was asked by a Washington Post consultant what he thought of Ovechkin’s post-goal celebrations. Crosby responded by saying, “I don’t like it personally, but that’s him. And like it or lump it, that’s what he does. Some people like it, some people don’t. Personally, I don’t like it, but you know what, he’s a good player.”

Ovechkin also had a few things to say: “He’s a good player [Crosby] but he talks too much. I play hard, if he wants to do something like hit me again, he can try to hit me and then not talk to you guys about who plays dirty.”

What do you guys think of the Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry and the reaction of the media and fans?

Mike: It’s good for hockey to have these types of rivalries. This isn’t over something petty like the Ovechkin-Malkin thing apparently was. This is a clash of personalities that gets attention without spilling over into violence like some of these things in hockey do.

You know, Battle of California drew perhaps the best analogy I’ve seen.

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. “The Hitman” Bret Hart: Not a bad parallel to the Alex Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby rivalry when you think about it. Austin/Ovechkin appeal to the simple fan with brashness and aggressiveness; Hart/Crosby are vaguely whiny, undeniably talented Canadians. Crosby might even have a disturbing obsession with baby oil and strange sunglasses for all we know.

It really is perfect. Back in the day, the WWE was pushing Hart as the face of the company. But he was boring, and the fans started to tire of him. Along came Stone Cold, the brash heel with the Austin 3:16 shtick. The WWE touted him as the heel, but the fans began to cheer him anyway. Suddenly, the WWE realized they had a new phenomenon on their hands. They couldn’t force the fans to like one guy and hate another one. The fans decided who they liked. Stone Cold became one of the best champions they ever had. Bret Hart went off into oblivion.

Now, I’m not suggesting Sid will follow Bret Hart into that oblivion. But I am saying that, despite what Penguin fans think, Sid might not be as well-liked among hockey fans in general as he is in Pittsburgh. And I think the main reason for that is not some of the silly stuff we hear about him whining or diving. That’s immaterial. No, I think it has to do with how robotic he is in interviews. Heck, I’m a Pens fan, and I really don’t listen to his interviews. They are nothing but a laundry list of clichés most of the time. He is just so afraid to say anything that might offend anyone that he basically talks but says nothing at all. I’m sure he has a great personality, but he never lets it show to the media.

On the other hand, Ovechkin lets his personality shine through all the time. He celebrates after goals, which, unlike Don Cherry, I don’t have a big problem with. It’s not contrived, just spontaneous emotion. He smiles and laughs all the time. He just looks like he’s having fun, and fans love that. He just has a different personality than Sid, and what on earth is wrong with that?

As long as it doesn’t degenerate into childish name-calling or on-ice violence, I say any publicity that they draw to the sport is good publicity.

Ash: Differences in personalities is great. Things would be boring if everybody was the same.

I know next to nothing about professional wrestling (about the only thing I know is that it’s ‘fake’), so I’ll have to trust you and ‘Battle of California’ with those comparisons. Perhaps Ovechkin and Crosby ARE like Austin and Hart in terms of fan support, and it would be a shame if Crosby faded away because he leads a relatively quiet life.

Mike, like you, I don’t have a problem when Ovechkin gets excited after scoring a goal. I love to see players having fun playing hockey. I don’t see anything wrong with a player jumping up and down and celebrating a goal. I thought Ovechkin’s All-Star Game bit with the hat and the Gatorade was hilarious, and I wish more players had hammed it up at the ASG because it’s a good stage for the wacky stuff.

However, I don’t like to see anyone ‘celebrate’ a goal by throwing it in the faces of the opposition. I don’t like those gestures, and I’m not too crazy about Ovechkin cupping his ear with his hand to listen to the crowd roar – it’s a little too much for me. I don’t like to see anything that approaches the stupid end-zone skits put on by NFL show-offs when a touchdown is scored. To me, it’s not appropriate for an actual game.

I don’t really agree with Don Cherry’s idea of good ‘Canadian’ hockey (i.e. no goal celebrations), but I do think that Cherry was right in saying that the goal celebrations sometimes go too far.

Another thing about Don Cherry: Anyone who has followed Don Cherry these last few years will surely admit that he has been hard on Crosby for whining to the officials. You could probably say that Don Cherry was Sidney Crosby’s number one critic. However, he now seems to be one of the few people who is sticking up for Crosby.

What is interesting to me is how the public in general can see no wrong in Ovechkin, while Crosby can do nothing right.

The Ovechkin bandwagon is in full force and he is getting a free ride. Ovechkin could probably sucker punch somebody and swing his stick at their head, and the public would be upset if he was penalized.

Crosby, on the other hand, makes any sort of comment and is continually labelled as a ‘crybaby’, a ‘whiner’, and an overrated player. He could be talking to the refs about a questionable call (which is what he is supposed to do as captain of the team), yet the message boards fill up with comments about how ‘Cindy’ Crosby is crying to the officials again.

It just seems to be the ‘In Thing’ in hockey to shower Ovechkin with praise and throw insults at Crosby.

Mob-mentality, anyone?

Mike: You’re so right about the “mob mentality,” Ash. It has gotten to the point of just piling on. It happens all across society nowadays, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, eh?

I agree wholeheartedly with your point about celebrations. I generally have no problem with guys celebrating goals. AO certainly isn’t the first one to do it. Remember Tiger Williams back in the day riding his stick like it was a horse? If Tiger had been Russian instead of Canadian, I’m sure Cherry would have ripped him. As it is, though, my guess is the old xenophobe probably enjoyed Tiger’s shtick.

But there is a time and a place for everything, as the Caps might have figured out Tuesday. And that time and place is most certainly NOT when you score in the last two minutes to make the score 5-2 in the opponent’s favor. That’s exactly what Sergei Fedorov did. For whatever reason, his teammates mobbed him and piled onto him. Come on, boys, you’re losing 5-2. There should be no celebrating whatsoever. Now, Ovechkin wasn’t on the ice, so he can’t be blamed directly. But, just as the Pens are Crosby’s team, the Caps are Ovechkin’s team. So anything that happens goes back at least in part to him. This was bush league stuff, and even their own coach called his guys out for it.

“We just made it 5 to 2, and we’re jumping on each other like we just won an overtime game. I’m sure if I were on the Carolina bench I’d be going, ‘Look at these idiots.’”

Yet basically no attention was paid to this disgusting display. Let Sid or his team do something like that and the media would be all over them. Oh well, the media in this country have never been know for their fairness. No reason to start now, right? If nothing else, I’ll bet Cherry has a field day with it on Saturday.

The other point you make is very valid, too. Where do you cross the line between celebrating and taunting? I absolutely cannot stand taunting, and when a player skates by the other team’s bench and makes hand gestures, that is taunting. Just as in the NFL, the NHL needs to define this as a penalty. Not sure exactly how you would do it, but it needs to be at least a minor. But how do you handle a game-winning OT goal? I don’t want the NHL to become the No Fun League like the NFL seems to be, but I also want sportsmanship to remain a key part of the game. The taunting must go. Pure happiness after scoring is one thing; rubbing your opponent’s nose in it is quite another.