Alexander Ovechkin Comes To Toronto

What a great night it could be. The best player comes to town. The Leafs have been playing well. The Caps are playing well. Also, depending on your circle of friends and associates, as LT put it, there may be 60,000 people at tomorrow nights game. Seriously, everyone I have talked to seems to be going. This game could be as well attended as the first Blue Jays game ever, where over 100,000 were in attendance.

Meanwhile, the furor over the Ovechkin celebration seems to have quieted down. I thought, however a good perspective was in today’s Washington Post, by Thomas Boswell:

“That’s how powerful the NHL’s conservative, self-effacing culture can be. Top players, and good coaches, get paralyzed at the mere thought of acting goofy or self-congratulatory. That’s just not how it’s done in Moose Jaw. Elk would blush. Migratory fowl might lose their bearing. If Canadian TV commentator Don Cherry, rival star Sidney Crosby and the NHL’s puck purists don’t like Ovie’s stick shtick — and they already hate his spontaneous glass-smash leaps — they can go watch black-and-white tapes of Rocket Richard. When a charismatic, 23-year-old reigning MVP wants to “do his thing,” and it’s more modest than what lesser stars have done in every other sport for a generation, the adults should let him do it. Young genius has prerogatives, too. The NHL needs all the help it can get to attract new fans and get the major TV contract it desperately lacks. Yet the snipers are already after No. 8. “He’s the game’s most dominant scorer, but to do that, especially on our ice, I took it as an insult,” Tampa Bay winger Ryan Malone told the St. Petersburg Times. “It’s embarrassing. This isn’t football.” As one of my editors blurted: “No, it’s not football, you moron. Football has a billion-dollar TV deal.” What’s amazing is that the NHL is still in a time warp. You can’t do anything, except have a group hug or skate around kissing the Stanley Cup. It’s quaint. But it’s not holy writ. The irony of the league is that fistfights, even those that leave blood on the ice, still don’t offend anyone. The only issue: How many brawls is the right number? Yet upon joining Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky as the only players to score 50 goals in three of their first four seasons, Ovechkin can’t pretend that his stick is too hot to handle without being ripped, wrist-slapped and threatened with retaliation. If sticking a toe into modern times irks some of their stuck-in-the-’50s NHL rivals, who cares? ”

No truer words on the subject have been spoken. Some traditions are sacred. Others need to be advanced to the modern era. If the NHL intends to compete for North American eyeballs in this new world, with this new world economy then they are going to have to start selling a little more sizzle. It’s time for the grand old game to grow up just a tad. I hope Alexander puts on a show tomorrow night.

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