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Monday, January 26, 2009

Alex Ovechkin: God's Gift to Hockey?

Now you might already know that I take Eklund's hockey rumours as seriously as I take rest on Sunday and waking up on Mondays, but he actually wrote a pretty good piece today:
"Alex Ovechkin is "God's gift to Hockey." Quite Seriously.

Remembering three All-Star games ago, in Dallas, it was all about Sid the Kid. After these last two games, all that Sid the Kid talk back then feels...Well childish. Crosby has missed two All-Star Games now, and while that really feels like no big deal, last night I went to the kids outside the Bell Centre to find out.

I did a very informal survey of 25 kids who looked to me to be under 12. I asked them one simple question. The kind of question kids ask each other...

"So who is better: Crosby or Ovechkin?"

It was our own Dan Tolensky who told me that his theory was that the All-Star game was for The Sponsors and The Kids. He is dead-on with that statement. For all of the complaining that we adults do about this game and its lack of any intensity, the kids freak out over it. I was watching them in the stands over the two days. They are star struck. They love it.

So, I figured this is Montreal Canada. Surely this is Crosby Country.

Guess again.

Of the 22 Canadian boys and 3 Canadian girls surveyed..

Ovechkin 17
Crosby 8

Yes, among the kids at least Ovechkin is King.

Now you could argue that kids are very much "what have you done for me lately beings" and they just saw him in the silly hat and all, but to be honest I think the adults as well may be tending this way. You tell me.

I really do think that it Ovechkin has made the effort to really play to the room. He knows that this is fun and truly takes life the way a man who makes a bazillion dollars to have fun should take life. The biggest reaction from the crowd last night in the first two periods came after the big screen flashed up two hot blonds who stood up and danced to the music going on during the break and then cut to Ovechkin who was looking at the screen and saying "ooooh." Caught, Alex looked away and laughed embarrassed. It was a pure and real moment.

I think that this All-Star Game in Montreal could be remembered as the All-Star game where the Russians taught us how to have some fun and take things lightly. That is an ironic statement for those of us who grew up around the Communist RED ARMY teams and were sold the Cold War concept of the "I WILL BREAK YOU" Russian.

Frankly the current Russians in the NHL are just goofy. In a good way. They lack the pretense and truly appear to be taking it in.

There was a really interesting juxtaposition last night. After Kovalev sat on the podium with his kid just beaming about how much fun he had and how important this weekend was to his repertoire, I saw Sidney Crosby walk by me with his entourage in his suit looking dead serious.

Don't get me wrong. I am not dissing Sid. It wasn't his fault that he was hurt the past two years and I have watched him as a player go through walls to win. He is amazing and all...

I just feel that Ovechkin may have taken over and may in the end, despite his accent, be the guy who leads the NHL to another level of sorts.

What do you think?

As for a few other Extra-Curricular game rumours. There of course will be no All-Star Game next year as we all head for the Olympics in Vancouver but in 2011 the word is that Phoenix, who lost the game due to the lockout, will host the game. (Won't need our great gloves there!) If Phoenix for some reason can't host the game it will be in Carolina or Chicago.

Also, as first reported back in September on this site by Howard Berger, what was once called "The Canada Cup" will return after next season, just prior to the start of the 2011-2012 season. "The World Cup of Hockey," which many believe will take the place of our Olympics needs to see the best face each other, will be played in North America and Europe.

As for NHLers at the Olympics past Vancouver. It is not dead yet. The 2014 games are in Russia and expect an all-out war as the Russians are already talking to their players in the NHL and begging them to come and play in Russia in 2014."

- Eklund
It's hard to argue that the All-Star game is trivial, but considering the marketing job it's doing on the kids, perhaps it's not such a bad thing after all. Now if only the NHL could figure out how to relocate their promotional dollars for their tried and true fans - the older generation. Remember this, the kids are the future but this is an aging population (check out the demographics, it's true) and they should figure out how to keep the fans they already have, rather than throwing money away in Phoenix and on the Island.

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