Friday, March 20, 2009

Loosen your Sphincter NHL

As you might have seen on ESPN, Alex Ovechkin scored his 50th goal of the season last night, which put him in special company as being one of only four players to have three 50-goal seasons in their first four as a pro. The scoring spree Ovechkin has been on this year has him in position to become the first back-to-back Hart Trophy (MVP) winner since Dominick Hasek did it back in 1996. Pretty impressive for a guy who is only 23.

But the real story was the celebration that followed his 50th tally of the season. After Ovechkin scored, he stopped just pased the goal and placed his stick on the ice. He then proceeded to place his hands overtop the stick pretending as if it was on fire and/or warm. FANTASTIC!!! I love watching celebrations and seeing players be excited after they've scored. In hockey you never see this and for a change you get to see a player who isn't straight-faced and stiff when he scores.

Other players, teams, and color-commentators feel differently about this. Recently we heard Don Cherry, CBC analyst, criticize Ovechkin for his celebrations like jumping into the boards or raising his hands like a soccer player. Even the "face" of the league Sidney Crosby criticized Ovechkin for his celebrations as being too excessive and stupid. After lastnight more criticizm came from not only the opposing coach Rick Tocchet, "he came down a notch in my book," but the Capitals coach as well Bruce Boudreau, "I personally don't like it that much."

Now I can understand the feelings from the coaches because they are older and hockey was different back when they played. But for players to come out and say something as well, I kinda find it interesting. I mean if you look at the NHL right now, you see that after the lockout there were rule chages made to promote scoring and get rid of ties because for the longest time goalies dominated the game and really pushed away the casual fan. Fans come to watch hockey to see goals be scored, fights breakout, and beautiful skating. When you watch a game that has a low score you can appreciate the great goaltending but don't tell me you wouldn't rather see a high scoring affair.

Anyways, while the NHL hasn't done anything yet, Ovechkin seems to be becoming the NHL version of Chad Johnson or T.O. Seemingly outcast by his peers and other team officials, but embraced by his fans and teammates. For a post-lockout NHL this is something they need. They need someone to bring flare to the game, show emotion, and evoke the temper of other players. Right now Ovechkin is doing that. And have you seen the Verizon Center on any given night? Have you seen opposing arenas when the Caps come into town? Have you seen a jump in ratings and fans since this guy has become the real "face" of the NHL?

Looks like the league may need to either turn a blind eye or have a chat with these unhappy coaches and players and tell them that without Ovechkin, this league could be just as gone as the XFL.

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