Within each great rivalry is a great story, and superstars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals have both inked stories in their short time as professional hockey players, many of them involving each other and the colossal clashes that take place when their teams meet.
Their rivalry has taken over the NHL, ever since the two entered the league in 2005 and demonstrated levels of skill that had everyone talking.
Take a closer look at their stories and you might see they bare resemblance to the stories of two major characters of American culture.
I'm talking about famous comic book and movie characters Clark Kent and Lex Luthor. If it isn't obvious already, Crosby's resemblance is to the Man of Steel and Ovechkin to his arch nemesis.
However, I want to make very clear that I am discounting the good and evil images both characters represent. Clearly Ovechkin isn't an evil villain and Crosby is certainly no saint, so to associate either with those characteristics would be ridiculous.
I also want to note that I am using the hit show, Smallville, as my main reference since the show specifically focuses on why and how Kent and Luthor become the characters we see in the comics and movies while delving into their "friendship." Not to mention the comics and movies deal more with the good and evil natures I am attempting to avoid.
On the surface, there are two obvious similarities between the pairs. The first is the shared name between Luthor and Ovechkin: Alexander, a name meaning "warrior" (according to its Greek origin) and often identified with the Macedonian ruler who conquered a large part of the civilized world at a young age.
The similarities between the conqueror and Ovechkin were drawn immediately when his domination on the ice became a regular occurrence in the NHL and ESPN highlights.
Luthor also established himself as a powerful man because he took charge of a large portion of his father's company, Luthorcorp, and later becomes President of the United States, depending on which version of Superman is being used.
The second obvious similarity is quite simple: Tom Welling, who portrays Kent, and Crosby look pretty similar (at least in my opinion). In fact, the very first time I saw Crosby on TV, I was compelled to research whether they were at all related. Of course, they were not.
But let's dig a little deeper.
Like Kent/Superman, Crosby lives a double life. During the day, Kent is the awkward, I'll-keep-to-myself reporter for the Daily Planet, but once he tears off the work clothes to bear the Suit, he becomes the almost-unstoppable Man of Steel.
Crosby is no charmer when the cameras and the microphones are placed in front of his face following a game or practice. His interviews and high-pitched laugh can be uncomfortable at times because, in the end, he's not here to give the headline-worthy quotes.
He's here to rule the ice like Caesar ruled the Roman Empire; he's here to be the difference-maker every time his skates touch the ice.
Thus far, he has been that person his teammates, both on the Penguins and in international competition, can depend on in tight games. But take away the hockey skates and he transforms back into that awkward boy-next-door figure.
On the flip side, Luthor lived a troubled life early on, especially after the death of his mother. The lack of a motherly figure in his life becomes the source of many future problems, but it doesn't stop Luthor from becoming a successful businessman who constantly wants to know more to gain more power.
His passion for success is shown by his accomplishments and at a young age, his charisma and his flashy demeanor.
Ovechkin's public behavior mimics that of a famous rock star because of the striking performances he's strung together in his short career and how he has embraced the ensuing fame with open arms.
While he has seen his fair share of success in the NHL and other tournaments, he's still reaching for that final award that would surely cement him as one of the greatest to play the game of hockey.
Yet people forget about Ovechkin's life before embarrassing goalies and partying became a part of his regular routine.
Tragedy struck early for him when his older brother, Sergei, passed away in a car accident. Fans are reminded of Ovechkin's love and dedication to his brother when he kisses his glove and points to the sky when he scores.
There is no doubt that Sergei is the fuel to Ovechkin's fire on the ice.
The heart of Crosby's and Ovechkin's similarities to Kent and Luthor, however, require a much closer look.
In the final moments of Smallville's series finale, Kent and Luthor have a final conversation that sets the tone for their future relationship as hero and villain. Here's a piece of it (the full clip can be seen here):
Luthor: "You and I, we will both be great men. Because of each other, we have a destiny together, Clark, only on different sides."
Kent: "I'll always be there to stop you. Always."
Luthor: "Oh I'm counting on it."
So goes the relationship between Kent and Luthor that is familiar to us all. Sure enough, they do become great symbols in Metropolis, regardless of their affiliation with good or evil. Without the intense desire to overcome each other, they don’t take on those identities as rivals.
This is because they are defined by each other.
In the inserted video clip, Luthor eloquently states, "The great men and women of the world have always been defined by their enemies." There is no Kent without Luthor because Kent's purpose is Luthor and Luthor's purpose is Kent.
This is why they can't escape each other; their stories are so intertwined, one attempting to stop the other. It’s intriguing how Luthor embraces the fact Kent will always be there to stop him, essentially embracing being on opposite sides, because that is where their destinies have taken them.
Luthor also talks about how Kent was “born to be the Chosen One,” a power Luthor wants so desperately to fulfill his life-long wishes of being infinitely powerful. But knowing he can’t take that title, that destiny, from Kent, he opts to go a different route to achieve greatness.
Luthor understands he can’t achieve greatness by himself because to be great, he has to conquer the one who was called to be the greatest. This is how they become so integral to each other’s stories. Kent can’t be a hero and exercise his powers without needing a reason to use them.
Moving back to the initial conversation clip, it also sounds like it could be an overly dramatic back-and-forth between Ovechkin and Crosby.
These two players have been in each other's way since their entrance into the NHL. The league was drooling when the debates of "Who's better, Ovechkin or Crosby?" stirred, thus directing focus back to the NHL, focus that was once lost because of the 2004-05 lockout.
With the two young phenoms playing some of their best hockey against each other, the question of who's better continues to circulate cyberspace.
And it may never end, much like the arguments concerning Wayne Gretzky versus Mario Lemieux.
The best part, despite the rivalry being very media-driven, is how Crosby and Ovechkin have quietly taken it upon themselves to be the best, meaning they would take down the other whenever possible.
But regardless of the friction between the two, there is an understanding of Crosby’s need of Ovechkin and vice versa. Together, they create a money-making story that has become a driving force for their respective teams and the NHL.
If one goes away, the story would disappear because their paths have become so interwoven.
Many of Crosby's successes in hockey have come by one-upping Ovechkin, such as the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals and the Vancouver Olympics. Ovechkin's individual successes have come by out-performing Crosby. It has come to the point where talking about one leads into a conversation about the other.
They can't escape each other, especially because there is unfinished business on both sides.
Like Kent, Crosby was dubbed “The Next One” by Gretzky before he was old enough to shave. It was a title he would have to live up to, especially since he would be entering the NHL just following the dark period of the lockout.
But it didn’t take long until the rest of the NHL world realized this wouldn’t be a one-way street because of the magic Ovechkin was performing for his own team.
No matter what, Ovechkin can’t ever be “The Next One” because it was a title given solely to Crosby, but that doesn’t mean Ovechkin has to kow tow to the title. It doesn’t even mean anything other than Crosby is expected to live up to high expectations. So of course, Ovechkin has fought against what was expected to try to put his name on top.
For Luthor, he could never succeed.
Ovechkin still has a chance because he and Crosby are still living out their destinies.
And like Kent and Luthor, it has been and will continue to be a story for the ages.
Laura Falcon is a Featured Columnist for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Follow her on Twitter or email her at email@example.com with any comments or questions.
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