It can be argued that a suspension of three games is too harsh a punishment for the Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin to be handed for his check on Zbynek Michalek of the Pittsburgh Penguins last week. But the hit was, without a doubt, illegal and worthy of discipline—one or maybe two games in this Caps fan’s opinion, with three feeling a bit excessive but not like absurdly too many.
My real disappointment with this situation though has less to do with the act itself—where Ovechkin made a bad decision in a split second (though he does need to be more conscious of keeping his skates on the ice when delivering a hit)—and more to do with the way Ovechkin and the Capitals organization, as well as some Caps fans, have handled things since.
Caps owner Ted Leonsis blogged that he does “not agree in any way with the suspension of Alex Ovechkin for 3 games.” I hope it’s only the length of the suspension that Leonsis takes issue with. His player’s feet left the ice and he launched himself into Michalek. A hit like that is against the rules, plain and simple. I ask Leonsis and any Caps fan who feels otherwise: “What would you be saying if someone had hurled their body into Mike Green that way?”
In speaking to reporters, Ovechkin said, “I don’t think it was bad hit, a dirty hit. Yeah, I jumped, but he don’t get hurt and I don’t get two minutes. I don’t think it was a three-game suspension.” So maybe Ovi feels three games is too many, but why can’t he admit he made a mistake and that it was, in fact, a bad hit? He may not have meant for it to be one, but he acted recklessly and it was.
As Adam Vingan wrote on Kings of Leonsis, “Ovechkin contradicted himself, saying that the hit was neither ‘bad’ nor ‘dirty,’ but admitting that he jumped into Michalek, which is both bad and dirty. To be blunt, if the hit was neither of those things, Ovechkin would not be sitting out until February 4.”
It would be nice to see Ovechkin take some ownership of what he did, like the victim of his hit did for an elbow he gave later in the same game. As Vingan points out in that same post, “Michalek, who did not receive any supplementary discipline for his elbow on Matt Hendricks, admitted his mistake and said that he deserved punishment for it.”
The fact that Michalek did not receive a suspension for his hit, while Ovechkin did, is what seems to have many Caps fan riled up. But, simply because one guy got handed a suspension and the other didn’t, should not prevent Ovechkin, team management and Caps fans from admitting his own hit was outside the rules and a suspension worthy offense.
And that brings us to the NHL All-Star Game, which Ovechkin has chosen to skip, saying “My heart is not there. I got suspended, so why I have to go there? I love the game, it’s a great event, I love to be there but I’m suspended. I don’t want to be a target. I feel I’m not deserving to be there right now. I got suspended, I have to be suspended, so that’s why I give up my roster [spot].”
In an open letter to Ovechkin, my brother used the analogy of a child being grounded. He wrote that “Being grounded does not excuse you from your chores,” with the All-Star Game being one of Ovi’s chores that he should continue to do, even if he may not want to (like back-checking consistently).
I choose to use a different, but slightly related analogy. I kind of see Ovechkin as the kid who is saying, “Fine, if we can’t play the games I want to play, then I’m not playing at all” and he’s packing up his toys and going home sulking.
Nick Kypreos said something similar: “Alex Ovechkin gets a three-game suspension so he’s taking his road hockey net and going home.” But Kypreos goes on to excuse Ovechkin for skipping the All-Star Game saying, “the league gave Ovechkin the wiggle room to take a pass and I believe he’s perfectly within his rights to take the weekend off.”
Ovi may be within his right to opt out of this year’s game but, as a Caps fan especially, I don’t like the decision he made. One commenter here on this blog said they “think it is great that he is taking a stand.” I think this move by Ovechkin actually makes him look more weak than strong.
When my son asks me why Ovechkin isn’t in the All-Star Game this weekend, I’ll probably tell him that only Ovechkin knows the answer to that, but that it appears he’s either trying to make a statement about being suspended, that he doesn’t want to face the consequences of his actions or he maybe didn’t want to be there in the first place, preferring to rest.
If it was a statement he wanted to make, Ovechkin should have sucked it up, put on his big boy skates and gone to the All-Star Game, being bigger than life in every opportunity he got and playing out of his mind, like the Ovechkin we’ve seen many times before.
When asked about his suspension by reporters during All Star Weekend, he could have taken ownership for what he did and then expressed disappointment that he got so many games. If he wished, he could have then spoken about how he would have liked to have seen Michalek suspended for his hit on Hendricks as well.
In other words, he could have handled it in a mature fashion. He could have handled it like a captain. He could have handled it like someone who represents a team and its fans. His current approach has him sounding like a dejected quitter and I’m at least one Caps fan who isn’t too proud to be associated with that.
Finally, as I read comments about the situation online, I’m wondering why so many Caps fans are quick to defend Ovi’s actions. It’s as if they have to stand with him on all or nothing and they’re choosing all. It sometimes seems as if there’s a fear among Caps fans that if they admit Ovechkin has done one thing wrong, the Ovechkin-naysayers of the world like Mike Milbury and Damien Cox will win.
I think we all need to put down the red Kool-Aid occasionally. This is one time when Ovechkin isn’t being the player and leader I think many of us would like to see him be.