Monday, December 04, 2006

On Being a Caps Fan - A Response

I was going to just leave a comment on Heather's earlier post but it started to be as long as what she wrote so I figured I'd just offer my response in the form of a post :)

First of all, Heather, I think it is clear that you are nothing like the very small but vocal group of Buffalo fans who are saying obnoxious things about Ovie. And let's face it, Sabres fans may be in the spotlight right now, but we all have fans like that in our own buildings - this is not a specialty of people in Buffalo, believe me. I think that your argument has a lot of merit and more importantly is written in a calm and mature manner.

So let's get to the issue at hand - the hit on Briere by one Alex Ovechkin. I'll echo Heather and say please read this whole post before assuming that I think Ovie did nothing wrong...

I originally watched the hit and thought that a game misconduct was such an overreaction by the officials that I couldn't believe it. I thought double minor, maybe a major at the most for that hit. But the more I think about it and the more I read other people's opinions on the matter, the more I completely support how the situation was handled. Any hit from behind is so dangerous, whether the intent to injure is there or not, that it absolutely deserves an ejection - not taking that action just gives others carte blanche to continue to push the limits.

I'm still torn though about whether it deserved a suspension - there is a part of me that thinks suspensions should be kept for repeat offenders or in cases where the intent to injure was clearly there. That said, I would have understood if Ovie had received a one-game suspension because it was a really dangerous play. I do have to comment, though, on people who think Ovechkin got off with no suspension because of who he is - I think that's completely false. The NHL (albeit not always wise in their decisions) knows that allowing anyone to get away with something they don't deserve to get away with is a dangerous precedent.

And can I just say that the NHL definitely doesn't see Ovie as their golden boy or their poster child...give that trophy to the elegant Mr. Crosby, or as I call him Sidney Cry-Baby. (Sorry, guys, I know most of you are fans of his and I think he's an amazing player, but I have to stay true to my Penguin-hating roots...represent!)

Sorry, that was surreal. Moving on...

I'm also still torn about whether he could have stopped - I have seen the tape so many times and I've read Ovechkin's interviews. To me it looked like 2, maybe 3 seconds from the time Ovechkin leaves the Buffalo zone and the time that he hits Briere. In my opinion that doesn't give him a whole lot of time to stop. Who knows, though - I've never skated, especially in a hockey game, so I don't know how long 2 or 3 seconds can seem to a player during a game.

Still, it was definitely a stupid and careless play - the second Briere's back was turned Ovie should have been at least trying to avoid the hit, which he doesn't seem to do. I do believe that it was an accident, though, mostly because that's not the kind of player that Ovechkin is. He loves to hit guys, but he really loves to see their face when he knocks them over - you can see it, he just gets energized by laying a clean, hard hit on someone. He's never been one to board, crosscheck, elbow, any of those things.

I would like to apologize for any of my fellow Caps fans who have even remotely implied that Briere dove. That's just such an obnoxious thing to say and I'm embarassed to even be on the same side as someone who would say something like that. I'm a big fan of Briere and I know he's a classy guy. Just because he is able to return to the game after falling like that doesn't mean it was fake - he probably was shaken up a bit by the hit, he obviously was bruised and sore, but hockey players are tough and I was relieved to see him back out there.

As Heather pointed out and as I have said on my blog, there is a huge size differential between these two players...had they connected against the boards in a nice, legal hit I have no doubt that still would have been a spectacular fall, and that's not to take anything away from how strong Briere is, it's just a fact. Ovie's a big guy.

Incidentally, I thought it was a bit ridiculous that they threw both Gaustad and Mair out of the game, and I was impressed with how the Sabres responded to the hit - I would expect nothing less out of my own team.

Overall I was so proud of the way my team played before and after the hit - Buffalo is such a tough team to play and I really thought that the Caps would have trouble just staying in that one. If anyone was going to get 7 goals, I was certain it would be the Sabres - they have the kind of offensive depth and speed that I dream of and that I hope is starting to develop in the Caps organization. If the Caps were lucky enough to catch one of the best teams in the league on a slightly off night (and let's just point out that even on an "off night" they still kept the Caps on their toes) and take advantage of it, that can only be good for them.

Now...let's all hold hands and sing "Kumbaya"!


Jordi said...

Sing it sistah! You know more than I do, I've been defending Ovy even when I feel like I'm in hostile territory and have no leg to stand on.

I guess I still see Ovy as a growing kid who will have his ups and downs. No one ever asks Avery to take back the bile he spews whereas Ovechkin's suddenly some sort of victim of fame.

And yes, Sidney Crosby is the true NHL face. He's everywhere, really everywhere. Ovechkin, he can barely string long sentences together, he's an advertiser's nightmare.

Nonetheless I think the bigger picture is, okay there's a dirty hit - if the NHL suspends him, will this mean that they will work on fixing their shitty decisions from the past? No. The NHL brass will still stay as a bunch of knobs and nothing will change even if Ovy gets 5 suspensions. Because people will get hurt in a hockey game, and there will be "accidental" ones. I mean there will be players who take way harder hits and way dirtier things at them. But they will have to tough it out.

Heather B. said...

Awww, I'm all verklempt. Calm, mature, rational discussions? Agreeing *and* agreeing to disagree? We're so great! High fives all around!

Maybe it's just my experience, but I think this is a perfect example of a major difference between male fans and female fans. Three days later my husband is still spitting nails and cursing Ovechkin. For him there's nothing to the situation other than "their guy hit my guy." He's not a bad guy but he's totally irrational and unwilling to admit that there might be a little gray in the situation. I had to actually stop speaking to him earlier this evening because he was genuinely upset that I'm not furious with Ovie or the league. I think female fans love their guys just as much but are more willing/able to admit that their guy isn't always the saint and the other guy isn't always the sinner. Or is it just me?

I see what you're saying about Crosby being the NHL sanctioned face of the league. Personally I find Ovechkin's broken English and huge smile a lot more appealing, but what do I know? I'd buy pretty much anything he pitched to me.

I do think stardom plays a part in league penalties/fines, but after I thought about it, the league is just consistently stupid when it comes to suspensions anyway. I mean, the guy who broke Erik Cole's neck got three games. Did anyone really think Ovie was going to get FIVE? Crazy.

I really like this place :-)

hockeygirl said...

Heather: This place is amazing! Kudos to Jordi for the brilliant idea of creating hlog, this is just what the hockey world needs. And this is a great example of the difference between male and female fans.