Saturday, July 21, 2007

Why Snoop H8s Ovechkin

While there's no doubt that Jes doesn't care for Alexander Ovechkin, I'm not sure if you were aware that I don't like him, either. In order to be taken seriously in the blogosphere, I feel like I should explain why I don't like the Washington Capitals' #8. So I'm going to do something a little different for this post and tell you why I don't like Alexander.

I don't dislike Alex simply because Sidney is my favorite player. It's not the perceived rivalry between them that inspires me to feel the way I do about Ovechkin. In fact, when they made their respective debuts on NHL ice, I had high expectations of both players. The fact that Sidney was wearing the black and gold uniform and obviously all of that talent are the reasons Sid is my #1 player. And at the beginning, Alex was an enemy only because he played for the "bad guys." It was definitely fun to watch him, as he truly is gifted on the ice as well, but there was a distinct point in time when my indifference towards him turned into dislike.

In December 2006, Alex leveled Buffalo Sabres' forward Daniel Briere with an ugly, intentional, and suspendable hit from behind. For your consideration:

Alex received more than a bit of bad press over this incident. While he was ejected, given a five-minute penalty for boarding, a game misconduct penalty, an automatic fine of $100, and later fined an additional $1,000, he did NOT get a suspension. Briere Ovechkin is EXTREMELY lucky Briere wasn't seriously injured.

So does this one hit on Briere give me enough reason to label Ovechkin as a dirty hitter? It may surprise you that the answer is no, it doesn't. It certainly didn't make me love him, but we've all done things we've later come to regret. I'm Irish, and I know that my own temper has flared and I've done some stupid crap that, as a result, I found myself needing to apologize to someone afterwards - especially when I was a teenager. But I always tried to learn from my mistakes and took care not to repeat them, which is why I was hesitant to commit to a permanent dislike of Alex Ovechkin.

Then, in May 2007 at the IIHF World Hockey Championships games in Moscow, Ovechkin injured Swiss player Valentin Wirz with a high hit to the head. After serving a minor penalty for the Russian team for having too many men on the ice in the first period, Ovechkin stepped out of the penalty box and promptly stunned Wirz with this hit:

Wirz sustained a slight concussion and needed to be helped off the ice. For this offense, Alex was ejected from the game and suspended from playing in the following game. It was following this incident that I came to the conclusion that Ovechkin is indeed worthy of the tag "dirty hitter." He's always played a physical game of hockey, but playing that way comes with the responsibility of looking out for other players' well being. Anyone that plays that way with a nonchalant attitude for the safety of others (Ovechkin) doesn't deserve the privilege of playing in the NHL. Unfortunately, because he is such a big name and makes a lot of money for the NHL, he isn't punished the way he should be when he pulls stunts like these.

This is not to say that I don't enjoy the physicality of hockey. Au contraire, mon frere!!! It is in fact one of my favorite things about the sport. But I don't like seeing guys getting hurt - sometimes catastrophically - because one player takes a shot at another who's not prepared for it. Give me a good fight, but only if it's a fair one.

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