It’s More Than a Game, Ovi

I am angry at Alexander Ovechkin. It is actually more than anger; it is closer to the white hot fury normally reserved for the New York Rangers, hypocrisy and a certain very recently exiled orange abomination. My intention today was to discuss in writing that hatred for the Rangers. As my disdain for the Rangers is not going anywhere the Rags can wait.

In case you missed it, Alexander Ovechkin and three teammates (Ilya Samsanov, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dimitry Orlov) are currently sitting out on what is now called Covid Protocol. They are not out because of a mistake, an accidental exposure, or a slip up. These men are out because they defied the NHL’s rules and held a mini party in Ovechkin’s hotel room. There are rumours that there is a positive case on the Capitals; to my knowledge the NHL is prohibited from disclosing that information  officially. 

The NHL has fined the team $100,000 for this infraction, and Ovechkin issued a weak apology that is not even worth my time to research and quote word for word. That pittance of a fine is pocket change for not only the Washington Capitals, but for Ovechkin himself. Until the NHL makes the punishment really hurt…say forfeiting a game or two, these infractions will continue to happen.

This isn’t just a nuisance infraction, like traveling or practicing during a bye week; this behavior puts the entire NHL, and every player in it at risk. I know there are those that believe that Covid-19 is a hoax, and no worse than the Flu. That is your prerogative; to not believe in science. You can also believe the world is flat, that the Toronto Maple Leafs did not lose to their own 42 year old Zamboni driver or that JvR is a fine replacement for Wayne Simmonds, but the facts tell a different tale.

I am pretty active on social media. I chat with a lot of Philadelphia sports fans, and we often times discuss politics. We were all very happy that the aforementioned orange abomination was voted out of office, and on the day of Joe Biden’s (A FLYERS FAN!!) Inauguration, we rejoiced. One of my responses was how happy I was now that I could go back to talking Flyers hockey 24/7. A friend replied that while he knew it was blasphemy in the area, he was never a Flyers fan, and could never get into hockey.

While that may feel like blasphemy to me, I am used to it. Hockey, despite Gary Bettman’s attempts to dumb it down so that it appeals to the masses,  will never be a “big” sport in the United States. Some people don’t understand the rules, which can be convoluted, some dislike the fighting and violence. The best way I can describe hockey, and my love for it, is the way that Richard Gere described opera to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman:

“People’s reactions to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic; they either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.”

Hockey lives in my soul, and it has for as long as I can remember. While my heart belongs to the Flyers, I love the game of hockey itself; I would rather watch a bad hockey game than just about anything else. 

Canada may not have won a Stanley Cup since the Habs in 1993, but most Canadians will understand what I mean when I say that hockey lives in my soul. I was miserable in 2005, when the season was lost to a lock out. I was equally as miserable when the 2019-20 season was paused because of the Covid-19 Pandemic. The difference between the two is that while I was crushed at the prospect of no NHL season in 2019-20, I knew it was necessary. It wasn’t about a salary cap, shoot outs or arbitration, it was about protecting the players, staff and everyone who worked in or around the game. The game I love, the game that lives in my soul.

I have to question Ovechkin’s commitment to the game, far more that I would ever question Tuukka Rask, who left the bubble, or Matt Niskanen, who retired after last season. Ovi has always had the reputation for being lazy, and I have the memes to prove it….”Can’t spell C-H-O-K-E without Ovechkin” “What do you get if you order an Ovechkin in DC? White Russian, no Cup”. His dedication to the game during the 2018 season rendered the last meme obsolete. I do now have to wonder if the rumours of Barry Trotz being allowed to walk due to his high expectations and constant pushing of Ovechkin, were in fact true. 

While current Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette took some of the heat for this, I have a hard time believing the same coach that issued the Flyers a “Dry Island” challenge had any part in this. I have to think four millionaires, who felt they were untouchable and above the rules, decided to hang out together. In doing so, they put they health of every player on their team, and in their Division, at risk. They put the health of the trainers, the maintenance staff, the men and women that wait on them in hotels, people that make far less money than they do, at risk. They put the entire NHL season at risk, to hang out.

There is no way that hockey lives in Alexander Ovechkin’s soul. It may have at one time, many years ago, but it appears that time, wealth and success have doused that flame. Take your Cup and go home Ovi, before you cost the NHL one game, before you take the game that lives in my soul.

Photo Credit: CBS Sports

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