Monday, March 2, 2009

(Don) Cherry Pie

This will be covered to death in the next few days, but as the resident Ovechkin-devotee, I thought I’d weight in on the Don Cherry on Ovechkin controversy (even at the risk of alienating Nash Brown, who says it’s bad for our “marriage” to talk about the Ovie/Crosby divide.)

Because I am just that cool, I happened to be snoozing on my couch Saturday night when Cherry went on his Coach’s Corner rant against Ovechkin. My first instinct was to heckle my television, which I did with a few choice curse words. But I didn’t dwell too much on it because, well, it was Don Cherry. In my mind, that’s like getting riled up when listening to Bill O’Reilly. After reading PuckDaddy’s thoughts on the matter, however, I attempted to force myself to be objective, put the Ovie love on hold, and take a look at things from the other side.

Listening to Cherry, he’s talking about two totally separate things.

  1. Oveckin’s “over the top” goal celebrations.
  2. "He’s got a free ride, he runs at guys, does this stuff. I am predicting somebody’s gonna get him and somebody’s gonna get him good.” I’ve heard this a lot lately, and I guess people are picking up where Canada’s golden child left it after last week’s game when he said Ovechkin is “hitting to hurt guys in the head.”

First, the goal celebrations. Cherry is old school and he doesn’t like wild goal celebrations. Ok, that’s his opinion. Maybe Ovie is the poster child for this because he scores more than anyone else, thus giving him more chances to celebrate. But Sidney with me. And for the people who say it detracts from the team – I challenge you to find a player who is more excited when his teammates score. has launched himself against the glass too. Malkin goes down on one knee and does the fist-pump. And why shouldn’t they? These are young guys getting paid millions to play the game they love. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see this devolve into the crazy, choreographed NFL end-zone dances. But anyone who has the privilege of watching Ovechkin day-in and day-out can tell that he’s just excited and HAPPY he scored. He doesn’t do it on every goal, he doesn’t taunt goalies or d-men, he just speeds over to his teammates and celebrates with them and the fans. And for the people who say it detracts from the team? I'd challenge you to find a player more excited for his teammates when they score. Ovechkin isn’t a showboat, nor is he a selfish player. He’s a goofy kid with a wealth of talent who isn’t afraid to show how much he loves what he’s doing. He’s a new kind of Russian, which may be what has Cherry confused. (Also, can I note that when the 1980 US hockey team beat the Soviets, people were so thrilled see the kids whooping it up. People didn't like Soviet hockey because they were dour and mechanical and didn't look like they were having fun...)

On to the second, more serious part. These allegations that Ovechkin “runs at people” and “hits to hurt.” I’m still not sold on this, and I think any player claiming publicly that someone is hitting high and dirty without proof is unfair and a little dangerous. Maybe my fandom is clouding my judgment here, but I’m not convinced. Ovie is a monster and he hits hard. Yes, in some of the earlier games against Malkin, he went after him just to go after him, which was stupid and uncalled for. But it’s not like Ovechkin doesn’t get run at night after night. I’m not saying that makes it ok to leave your feet or board someone. And yeah, Ovechkin has done that. But he gets called and that’s how it should be. And it’s not like he’s the only one who gets carried away and crosses the line. (See Crosby.) I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying he’s not Steve Ott, so RELAX a little.

I guess I just feel like Ovechkin doesn’t get a fair shake (I know, it sounds ridic, but….) He’s the most exciting player in the league (we could argue forever over who has more talent between him, Crosby and Malkin, and aren’t we lucky we’re watching hockey while three greats grow up and into the game?!) If he were Canadian, he’d be lauded for being the full-package of goal scoring prowess and checking grit. But he’s Russian, so he can’t win. (And I guess the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette agrees slightlyThe thing about this is, if Ovechkin's name was Alan Olberbacher and he was from Moosejaw instead of Moscow, Cherry isn't nearly offended by it. And something Cherry and others who get huffy over this stuff tend to forget about this game is that it's entertainment.)

At its heart, this is not another chapter in the Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry. It’s a testament to how xenophobic and closed-minded Cherry is. He’s a little like my grandfather, but the difference is that my grandfather doesn’t get to broadcast his outdated and, well, let’s be honest, wrong, opinions to the world twice a week.

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