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Goal celebration gone wild

by Archives March 24, 2009

Mike Milbury called it embarrassing and childish. Don Cherry called it classless, a disgrace and a lack of respect for the game.
I’m not a fan of either of those men, but this is perhaps the one instance when I will agree with them.
Alexander Ovechkin’s 50th goal celebration was as strange as his All-Star antics, but it was far more controversial. After Ovechkin scored, he promptly threw his stick on the ice and gestured as if he was warming his hands over it. The stick is no doubt on fire – 50 goals is nothing to sneer at – but somebody should have taken his stick and cracked it over his head.
There is an unwritten code in hockey, that governs everything from fights and dirty hits to trash talk and appropriate goal celebrations. Ask any player in any hockey league today, and they will tell you that the game polices itself. Hockey is about respect. And when somebody breaks that unwritten code, they have to own up to the consequences.
Don Cherry predicted a few weeks ago that “Somebody is going to get him, and they’re going to get him good. When he’s skating up the middle, somebody is going to cut him in half.”
I await anxiously.
Ovechkin has gained both criticism and wild support since his rookie year for his dynamic play and his over-the-top, exuberant goal celebrations. Admittedly, most of his goals are cause for a celebration because they are surreal, but where a simple and modest fist-pump would do, Ovechkin takes it too far by throwing himself into the glass, screaming, kissing his glove and acting as if he won the Stanley Cup.
Perhaps I’m old-fashioned in favouring a modest, Crosby-esque teammate-oriented celebration after a big goal. Maybe I harbour a respect for the game that few people have anymore.
I am not denying that Ovechkin is an exciting player to watch. He’s incredibly skilled and a joy to watch whenever he’s on the ice. But there is nothing fun or exciting about his ridiculous overreactions to every goal he scores.
Let’s look at his 50th goal celebration, just for the sake of timeliness. It was only eight minutes into the first period, and the score for both teams was at zero. The Capitals were facing the second-to-last place team in the league, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Oh, and Lightning goaltender Mike McKenna was in his 10th game in the NHL.
Way to go, Ovechkin. What a feat.
Even teammates were appalled by his excessive joy. Defenceman Mike Green went to congratulate Ovechkin after the goal, but when the celebration started, Green turned direction and headed straight to the bench.
“He told me he was going to do it,” Green later said. “He wanted me to join in, but there was no way I’d join in on that.”
Perhaps more irritating than those idolizing Ovechkin’s idiotic ways is the recent comparisons to Rocket Richard.
Now, Richard is a legend in Montreal. Loved, respected and honoured by all.
Comparing an arrogant, overzealous player like Ovechkin to a humble, passionate demi-God like Richard sends a pang to my heart every time. The only thing the two have in common is that they have both had numerous 50-goal seasons. The comparisons end there.
Richard played the game with heart, and most importantly, he played it with the highest level of respect. Richard’s black coal eyes bore into his opponents and he played with an intensity that is unmatched today. On and off the ice, he was a gentleman and a fighter, a humble, quiet man who would always prefer to put his teammates in the spotlight first, and himself never.
Comparing him to Ovechkin is like comparing Ron Maclean to Don Cherry.
For the sake of my sanity, don’t do it.
Some may find Ovechkin’s goal celebrations to be as exciting as his style of play – call me old fashioned, but I see nothing exciting about an idiot dancing around the ice screaming his head off every time the puck goes in the net. Have a little class, a little respect, and play the game the way it should be played.
Stop the exaggerated celebrations after every goal. You’ve put the puck in the net 50 times already this season, give it a rest.
Then again, it must be easy to score 50+ goals a season when you’re using an illegal stick.

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