Posted 03/03/2009 at 12:21 PM
Although we don’t follow NHL hockey as close as other sports we did notice the stir that was created by Don Cherry last week with his criticism of Alexander Ovechkin. Cherry is certainly a hockey legend in his own right, to a John Madden or Harry Caray like stature in the Canadian hockey world, and its certainly not the first time he has said something that has rubbed some people the wrong way. His comments had a reasonable point but the soccer celebration clips certainly were in poor taste and painted some less than subtle racism.
The celebrations for goals have become increasingly theatrical but for a league that has struggled in recent years and could be in line for doomsday type struggles in the years to come with the current economic situation perhaps this is something the league needs. The NFL has certainly made efforts to crack down on celebrations but they have made superstars out of players like Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens and although purists can claim to hate it, when it is someone on your team scoring and celebrating you can’t help but enjoy the moment a little bit.
If it helps get a few more NHL highlights on Sportscenter than perhaps this type of celebration should be encouraged. Hockey of course has its own ways of regulating itself and at some point Ovechkin is going to make some enemies and take a cheap shot but it appears he is going to carry the candle for the league in the next decade as he has emerged as the dominant player in the game and he now has a quality team around him in a market that has not had many winners in recent years.
The drama and intensity that builds in hockey and soccer is so great that such exultation after a score is almost impossible to contain. There is such a difference in the energy in a hockey arena or a soccer stadium versus a football field or a baseball park. Many Americans have likely never been to a hockey or soccer game live with a full crowd and it really is an amazing experience with an intense game that means something. It is something that doesn’t quite transfer over onto television which is why the NHL and MLS will always lag way behind the other major sports. Any attention for the NHL right now is good attention and maybe it will not be such a bad thing for Cherry and other hockey purists to paint Ovechkin as a villain because he is good enough to handle it and villains sell tickets just as well as heroes.