Tuesday, January 27, 2009
NHL All Star Game Reactions
What a weekend for the NHL! We saw some great action in the super skills competition on Saturday including a new record speed for the slap shot, and a thrilling shoot out win for the Eastern Conference on Sunday. The weekend in Montreal certainly made hockey relevant again after years of irrelevance before and after their lockout season. This writer also made two very important observations about the state of the NHL, and the state of All-Star Games in general. The first is that Alexander Ovechkin is the man. He is the single best player in the NHL and needs to be taken out of Sidney Crosby's shadow and made the centerpiece of NHL marketing. My second observation is that fan voting needs to put to an end in ALL capacities. Just like in the final round of America's Funniest Home Videos, the fans always pick the wrong winners.
Alexander Ovechkin is definitely one ugly dude. His teeth make him look like the love child of Madonna and Michael Strahan, he is almost never clean shaven (not that there's anything wrong with that), his haircut pays homage to Julius Caesar and Lloyd Christmas, and his unibrow is a thing of legend. Despite these shortcomings however, Ovechkin needs to be the player that the NHL markets as their premier player. Unfortunately, the NHL has chosen Sidney Crosby as their most marketable player, mostly because he is from Canada and is less of an uggo. This is a very safe and boring choice for the NHL. Ovechkin plays with much more electricity, physicality than Crosby, and has much more fun doing it. Ovechkin is always showing off that "flosses with a rope" smile on the ice and looks like he enjoys the game much more than Crosby. His performance in the trick shot competition also shows that he has a great sense of humor and can really get the crowd going. Crosby is much quieter, often injured, and not quite as electric on the ice. In my opinion Alexander Ovechkin is much more fun to watch and should be the marketing centerpiece for the NHL. It showed this weekend as he won over the entire city of Montreal, and Crosby did not even take part in any of the weekend activities due to injury.
We shouldn't try to gather too much from fan opinion however, except for educated fans like me. Fan voting has been the bane of All-Star Games of all sports since its inception. It is the stupidest thing ever and leads to horrible All-Star selections and skills competition winners. Was anyone else pissed off lest year when Kosuke Fukudome was a starting outfielder for the National League in the All-Star Game? How about injured Alfonso Soriano? How about 4 Montreal Canadiens on the starting roster for the East this year? It seems that there are a few All-Star snubs every year who are robbed of going to the game because of other players being voted in by the fans. It doesn't end there however, fans also control who wins several of the All-Star weekend competition. Though Ovechkin is the man, there is no way he should have won the trick shot competition on Saturday night. It was entertaining, but Ryan Getzlaf's shot was amazing in terms of skill. Unfortunately it was up to the fans, and Ovechkin was declared the winner for skating down the ice with two sticks, putting a weak shot on goal, the stuffing in the rebound. And who can forget the "Celebrity Panel" that voted Nate Robinson's dunk over Spud Webb, a man the size of a desk chair, the winner over Andre Igoudala's amazing behind the backboard dunk a few years ago. These examples of fan stupidity are why All-Star rosters and competitions should be left to the professionals.
We learned a lot from this weekend's All-Star Game in Montreal; some good, some bad. Ovey is the man and needs to be to the NHL what MJ was to the NBA. That would go a long way in bringing fans back to what was for years a floundering league. Secondly, we need to abolish all types of fan voting in sports. In other words, as much as I like him, I don't ever want to see Ken Griffey Jr. starting another All-Star Game.