Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why I dislike Alex Ovechkin's prancing

A lot has been made of Alexander Ovechkin's 50th-Goal-Celebration-And-General-Asshatery over the last few days. For those of you not in the know, after beating Mike McKenna for his 50th goal of the season, Ovi dropped his stick on the ice and pretended it was too hot to pick up. To date it was the most elaborate goal celebration of his career (that I think of) and added fuel to the Ovechkin-Cherry dispute. Don Cherry, an old timey Pro-Canada Anti-European traditionalist, hasn't been afraid to rail against Ovi's shinanegans, #8 and his supporters have been saying that his antics are good for the NHL, that it attracts fans to the sport.

Let's get a few things straight before I start in on this. I'm not a fan of Ovi8, he plays for one of my favorite team's (Carolina) rivals, but I do recognize that he is the best offensive player in the game, and I say "offensive" with good reason. Ovechkin is always looking to score, which often has a negative effect on his defensive play. I don't agree with all of Don Cherry's talking points against Ovechkin, but I agree that Alex's tomfoolery makes him look like an ass, and I'm going to tell you why.

His celebrations don't draw any fans to the game, period. Would you seriously tune in to an NFL game for the touchdown celebration? We watch the game (any game, really) because we want to see it played with skill (something Ovechkin definitely has). We're going to want to watch players of Alex's ilk no matter what because they're the best at what they do, his celebrations are unnecessary. Critics have lamented that the NHL doesn't have any one-name superstars a la Kobe, Lebron, A-Rod, Peyton, Eli, T.O., but this perceived (and as I believe, incorrectly perceived) lack of marketable stars isn't because they aren't prancing around like a band of idiots when they score, it's because the NHL has a piss-poor TV contract that keeps it's potentially marketable stars out of any markets that don't have NHL teams.

I'm not about to say that he shouldn't celebrate as frantically as he does because it might hurt the opposing team's feelings (which is a point Cherry makes). The way I see it, if teams didn't want to see number 8 roll around on the ice like a dumb ass they would keep him from scoring, or they should put one of their goons out there to slap some sense into him. The thing his celebrations do do (I'll pause while we all stop giggling at that list sentence), is draw all of the attention to him. This is what Ovechkin wants, of course, but he does this at the expense of his teammates. Hockey is a team sport (duh), and nine-times out of ten in an NHL game the player that scores the goal isn't the player that made the best play, for every goal there is usually some spirited fore or backchecking and at least one great pass, that's why hockey awards up to two assists per goal. Now, to his credit, Ovechkin celebrates enthusiasticly any time somebody on his line scores (even if his team is still down 4-1), but these choreographed celebrations take attention from the other five guys on the ice that put him in position to put the puck in the net. The first thing most hockey players do when they score is skate over and celebrate with their teammates, Ovechkin drops his stick and acts like an idiot instead.

So that's my case against NHL players making a big production out of goal celebrations. We don't need NHLers taking a page out of the NFL celebration playbook. Unlike NFL players, NHL players come across as personable to their fans, which is one of the reasons why we love them so much. If I saw Ray Whitney or Joe Corvo at the grocery store, I would feel comfortable quickly letting him know they've had a great season so far. A big-time NFL player? I don't think they even go shopping for their own groceries.

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