An open letter to Alex Ovechkin

Dear Alex,

You are probably frustrated by the suspension the NHL handed you for your hit on Zbynek Michalek, and rightfully so. I knew as soon as I saw the hit that it’d draw the attention of the league but I never expected three games. The hit was a bit reckless but by no means did you target the head and Michalek wasn’t hurt on the play.  In fact, Michalek was feeling so good that he doled out a questionable hit of his own just a few minutes later, but I digress. I thought you’d maybe get one game and never imagined you’d get three. That being said, I think your decision to not attend the All-Star Game as a result of the suspension is shortsighted, selfish and spiteful.

Personally, I don’t buy your explanation that you didn’t want to be a distraction by attending the ASG. I think all along you preferred (like a lot of players) the three days off and the suspension gave you a great excuse to bail. I think it comes across as “Oh, you want to suspend me?  Fine, I’ll show you!” I get that. I have reacted in a similar fashion plenty of times. That doesn’t mean I think it’s the right reaction.

Say a child is grounded by his parents and that child decides in response to stop doing his chores around the house. Perhaps this is a reaction you’d expect from a child but, from an adult, it seems like a shortsighted and spiteful reaction. That child (or in this case, you) fails to realize that he/she benefits in countless ways from being a member of the family other than just the freedom granted when not grounded. The child has a place to live, food to eat, etc. This child has a life because of his/her family. The NHL is your family that has given you so much and the ASG is one of your chores. Being grounded does not excuse you from your chores.

You’re also either failing to realize or failing to care how many other people your decision affects. You’re one of the most recognizable faces in the league. Your energy is contagious. People are drawn to you and genuinely excited to see you play. Some of those people are fans and some of those people are sponsors (and some are both). All of these people are essential to you having the life you have. The ASG is generally considered THE showcase for these people to gather and marvel at your skill and personality. Now they don’t have that chance through no fault of their own. They don’t have that chance because you have let your current grudge from your suspension let you lose sight of the bigger picture here. And please, spare me on the whole bit that you are doing the league a favor. The league put you in the ASG, so let the league make the decision if you shouldn’t attend (and yes, I know they said they understood your decision. But you are still the one making a decision that is not really yours unless you are injured or notify the league in advance of being selected).

I’m not saying any of this to attack you or because I don’t like you. The truth is, I really do like you. I love watching you play. I’ll still be cheering and rooting for you. That being said, I have investments in you and the Capitals, both financial and emotional, and, for what it’s worth, I feel disappointed that you have handled this in such a childish manner. Enjoy your break. I’m looking forward to watching your return in Montreal.

Let’s Go Caps,
Patrick Holden

About Pat Holden

Pat writes regularly about hockey on Brooks Laichyear and Russian Machine Never Breaks. His work has also appeared on and The Washington Post. You can follow him on Twitter at

Posted on January 26, 2012, in Washington Capitals and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Look at it this way, if you were suspended from your job for 3 days, would you still attend any press events? I know I wouldn’t.

  2. I understand your point but I think the point I was making is to not look at it in such a narrow way. The relationship between Alex and the NHL is much bigger than these 3 games. It’s a relationship with mutual benefit and I think the decision to not attend is because of how you suggest to look at the situation, which I think is tunnel vision.

  3. Ovechkin owes his allegiance to the Caps and their fans. NOT the NHL or any other team’s fans. I think it is great that he is taking a stand. By the way, where is your boy Laich who is the player rep and failed to do anything about Shanahan’s violation of the CBA in Ovie’s suspension? Where’s the post on that?

  4. I respectfully disagree. That the league suspended him and expects him to turn up for a meaningless game *during his suspension* is the height of hypocrisy. What, because Sidney Crosby is injured, Ovie is the only face of the league and the man everyone but Caps fans love to hate? He’s expected to dance to their tune, even when the terms of his suspension–one of which was prior history–violate the CBA? He should have to deal with the press focused more on his suspension than the general camaraderie of the event? I don’t think so.

    Let the guys who are there, including Dennis Wideman, have their time in the spotlight and enjoy their weekend without the distraction of a suspended player allowed to participate. Because I think if it were anyone else whose suspension covered games before and after the ASG, they’d ask that guy not to come.

    His rationale–his heart is not in it, he doesn’t deserve to go because he’s suspended–makes sense. And spare me the mush about not being able to see Ovie. If someone can afford to go to an All-Star Game, they can almost certainly afford tickets to a game when the Capitals are in town and watch him play a MEANINGFUL and, I dare say, far more entertaining game.

    Ovie’s loyalty should be to the Capitals first and foremost. It does the team no harm–and probably more than a bit of good–for him to be well-rested and ready to go when he comes back February 4.

  5. I don’t see it as divided as you are framing it. I think the Caps, Alex and the fans are all part of a bigger NHL family. Sure, we all have our own individual allegiances but, like I’ve said numerous times above, I think there is a bigger picture than that to consider here.

    The CBA aspect of this dicussion is an interesting one and one worth having but that wasn’t the focus of this post. There is already a pretty thorough dicussion of that going on over in the Fanpost section of Japers Rink.

  6. Solid post Pat. What Alex fails to understand is the impact on the game and the fans. His decision not to play is selfish and one sided. I am sure Alex doesn’t care he is not playing this year as he knows he will probably make many more ASG in the future. Here lies the problem. Think about that father and son who purchased those $500 tickets in hopes of seeing their favorite player who is now a no show because he wants to make a point. WHAT BS.

    What pisses me off the most is the world doesn’t see the face of our Washington Capitals. Yeah I am proud of Wideman, but I want people to see what I consider one of the top 3 players in the world wearing a Capitals patch on his ASG jersey.

    OV is young and at some point in his career, if not already, he will regret this decision. ASG are about the fans, not the players. Unfortunately he is not the only athlete to conduct himself in this manner. Professional athletes are admired as heros around the world and I hope these most recent childlike antics of Ovechkin remind kids and parents that athletes are not role models or heros, but just overpaid sports figures, and in some cases unappreciative of the lives they live.

  7. Is the man bigger than himself? That’s the question the author is asking. He may be entirely justified in skipping the game, but Pat is looking for something more – an ability to see beyond his own narrow interests. We can find plenty of so-called men in sports for whom it is all about them. The rare ones are those who place team and sport above themselves.

    For those who suggest that Ovie owes his loyalties to the Caps, explain why, being a repeat offender, he saw fit to make a play that gave the league the ability to make an issue and suspend him. My tamake is that he put his own interest in making the big hit over the team interest for they will need to play 3 games without his services. Perhaps why the explains why maybe the most skilled individual in the game of hockey is not the best player in the sport.

  8. I agree with Pat here but am not surprised that this was Ovechkin’s response. But about 2 hours after he made this announcement, shouldn’t his agent, Dale Hunter, Or maybe even Ted Leonsis have called him up. They should have reminded him that he wears the Washington Capitals jersey with the big C on it. And he has a responsibility to live up to. They could even have written his statement to let the fans and sponsors know that he had screwed up but of course he would be at ASG weekend. As often in sports these days we got the message that the player is above the team and the league and that is a shame.

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