Bruins player wimps out after Crosby removes visor for fight

"Rumor has it that last night Savard challenged el Sid to a fight, but Savard wouldn't drop them as long as Sid had a visor on. Supposedly Sid went to the bench and unscrewed it from his helmet. Savard did nothing afterwards. Not sure if it's true (as this was told by a buddy of mine who works for the Pens) but it makes an interesting story if it is." -- Eric from Pa.

The incident referenced above between Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Boston Bruins star center Marc Savard is now the stuff of hockey folklore. We've received about three dozen variations of this e-mail since the Penguins' 6-4 victory over the Bruins last Sunday.

The basic premise is the same: Savard challenged Crosby and talked smack about his visor; Crosby had it removed on the Penguins bench; and when he reengaged with Savard, the Bruins player didn't back up his words. Bangin Panger had, perhaps, the first and most complete telling of the tale, even if the Chuck Norris-level of toughness that would have been Crosby unscrewing his own visor for a fight was later reconsidered as inaccurate.

Now, Crosby isn't exactly known as a model of physical intimidation: His two altercations this season involved jumping a guy after a face-off and punching another player in a sensitive area from behind. That history begged the question: Did this situation with Savard really happen?

The mainstream media in Boston and Pittsburgh didn't pursue the story for days, leaving some lingering doubt. That was until Chris Kunitz, Crosby's linemate with the Penguins, went on Mark Madden's radio show on WXDX in Pittsburgh this week (.mp3) and was asked why Crosby removed his visor:

"I hear him and one of the other Boston players had some words after one of their goals, and then came back to the bench ... I didn't know whatever happened, if it was scratched or whatever. But I noticed the next shift he had it off and was letting the other player know he wasn't intimidated. I guess the guy made some kind of remark, and Sid went and took it off, and maybe challenged the guy a little. Obviously nothing had come about it, but obviously you see the heart and the grit that Sid has ..."

Yesterday on his blog, Madden added further clarity with a literal blow-by-blow of the Crosby/Savard Fight That Wasn't.

Madden said Crosby claimed he had a scratch on his visor, saying it with a broad smile. Here's how Madden claims things went down on Sunday:

Bruins center Marc Savard taunted Crosby after a Boston goal, and the taunting continued until both players neared their benches. Crosby challenged Savard to fight, and Savard responded: "Take off that [sissy] shield, and I'll be glad to."

So Crosby handed his helmet to equipment manager Dana Heinze and told him to remove the visor. Crosby took the ice for his next shift sans shield but Savard backed down, thereby looking like the [sissy] he accused Crosby of being.

Score one for Sid in the mind games department and cue a verbal beatdown for Savard, who took a brutal aural blistering from the Penguins bench throughout the rest of the afternoon (and no doubt lost a little respect in the eyes of his teammates when his bluff got called).

Madden writes that Crosby had the visor reattached during the first intermission.

Sure enough, Crosby was wearing the visor again when the Penguins scored an empty net goal (right) to clinch the game.

(Madden, it should be said, is a talk show host of dubious distinction for many Pittsburgh sports fans. But if his facts are correct, this is the second Penguins story he's broken in the mainstream this season after the Evgeni Malkin "bribe" to his teammates.)

A source told us that Crosby has, in a general way, spoken before about wearing a shield-less helmet if he really wanted to get after an opponent in a fight.

The same source said there's legit heat between Crosby and the Bruins -- keep in mind that defenseman Andrew Ference was involved in Crosby's first gloves-off NHL brawl.

The facts and the folklore of this Savard incident run counter to the Golden Boy image through which the NHL has sold Crosby since he entered the League as a post-lockout marketing savior.

This is a good thing: As we've said before and will say again, Sidney Crosby works best as an anti-hero or outright guy fans "love to hate" in the NHL. The more stories like this that make the rounds, the better it will be for the League and arguably its biggest star.

Check out Puck Daddy on Friday for a Crosby video project.

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