This year's Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh showcases the two best players in the NHL: Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Since the two made their NHL debuts during the 2005-2006 season, pundits and fans have favored one or the other, and have subsequently favored either the Penguins or the Capitals as Stanley Cup contenders. But what do the guys who actually go head-to-head with these two superstars think?
We asked 26 players from 10 teams, five Western Conference and five Eastern Conference, who really gets top billing. We promised anonymity; they promised to tell the truth. Then we asked a few more questions -- about Sid and Ovi, Pittsburgh and Washington and the NHL's wildly popular New Year's Day game.
What did we find out? Everyone has an opinion. And nearly everyone watches HBO.
1. Who's the best player in the NHL, Crosby or Ovechkin?
100 percent of the players polled said Crosby is the best player in the NHL. Why? He's "a more complete player," "he's very dynamic and comes to play every night," "he's a leader," "he can change the game all by himself" and "he makes everyone around him better." This is a huge sea change from May 2009, when Sports Illustrated published a poll of 324 NHL players in which Ovechkin took home 51 percent of the vote as the league's best player. Then, Crosby was tied for eighth, with just 1.9 percent of the vote.