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Friday, April 4, 2008

Alexander Ovechkin: A Transcendent Icon

Washington Capitals beat writer Tarik El-Bashir (no relation to Martin Bashir of Michael Jackson fame) wrote a piece in the Washington Post yesterday commenting on the impact Alexander Ovechkin would have on the team and league if the Capitals were to make the playoffs. I think he was bang on. is the one guy in the league who actually seems to have a personality. He says what's on his mind, wears his emotions on his sleeve and isn't afraid to throttle himself into the glass after scoring a highlight reel goal! He's the one guy in the league who has transcended the conventions of the sport, both on and off the ice. He loves to score goals, not make pretty passes, but score goals, and he isn't afraid to say so. Unlike the other 99% of hockey players out there, he isn't branded as selfish for saying that (ie Pavel Bure, Ilya Kovalchuk though does have a defensive game, and doesn't seem to show up opponents on purpose). When the Caps acquired Cristobal Huet at the trade deadline, he actually had the balls to go into the GM's office and criticize him (he had scored four goals in a game on Huet earlier in the year). How many players would've done that! (or at least admitted to it publicly?)

There is something about such players, no, about such people, that allow them to transcend language, ethnicity and sport, and etch them firmly into our collective cultural consciousness. A lot of people say it's the genuineness of the person, the fact that we really get to see who they are, that gets such a response from people. This was often said about Michael Jordan. Wayne Gretzky was able to transcend what was a fairly unknown sport, and become a significant icon in America, because we got a feel for how genuinely humble and nice he was. He often would say things that other hockey players say all the time, but we got a feeling that he really meant it. I don't agree with this principle, as I don't believe you can ever really know who another person is. We can get an idea, but even after a lifetime of knowing a person, we can be surprised. What I believe, is that certain people project a certain ease about themselves. About who they are, what they're doing and how they're perceived. They don't really seem to care, they just buckle up and enjoy the ride. seems like such a person.

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Anonymous said...

This story has international significance because, with their four Russian stars, the Capitals are now Russia's team. With their playoff berth, the Capitals and Ovechkin will skyrocket to international prominence. I wish they were publicly traded!

Bill McFadden

nhlbusinessblogger said...

You're absolutely right Bill! The Capitals could gain the type of prominence the Red Wings had in Russia when Fedorov, Konstantinov, Fetisov, Kozlov, Larionov etc. were playing for them.

Hopefully they'll be able to catch all the games, NASN better broadcast the Caps in Russia! It will also be interesting to see, if this happens, how it affects Russia's attempt to create a league to rival the NHL. Whether it will affect its popularity, or whether they will even go ahead.