Monday, December 04, 2006

On Being a Sabres Fan... (Don't Throw Things Yet, Please!)

As the local Sabres fan, I feel the pressing need to comment on the Ovechkin/Briere situation from Saturday night's Sabres-Caps game. Those of you rolling your eyes and muttering, "Oh, yay, another fan who wants to feed Ovie to the jackals," please atleast read the whole post first before you commence with the muttering.

I think Ovechkin absolultey deserved to get tossed from the game on Saturday and I think he deserved a one game suspension. This is the third hit from behind I've seen in the past few games, and I really wish the league was more serious about stopping them because I think it's just a matter of time before they're dealing with Erik Cole all over again. If the league would pass out a one game suspension for boarding whether anyone was seriously hurt or not, they might have to deal with fewer situations where someone is seriously hurt. I don't think a lack of intent to injure cancels out the fact that it was a stupid hit that was a couple inches away from doing serious damage.

For the record, it also looks to me like Ovechkin - who definitely did not hit Danny full force - had plenty of time and space to pull up on the hit altogether. It looks - again, TO ME - like he decided that since they were both there, he'd give him a little nudge anyway. Stupid, stupid, stupid. You don't ever hit a guy in the numbers, no matter how gently you're doing it.

However, I don't think Ovechkin had any intent of hurting Danny. He clearly slowed down and he clearly felt badly afterwards. He's done nothing in his career up to this point to suggest that he would purposefully hurt someone. I don't think you can underestimate the fact that Ovechkin is a solid 6'2" while Briere is a not-as-solid 5'9". (Fun fact for the day: Danny has admitted that when it came time to officially list his height with the NHL, he thought it was important to be in double digits so he bumped himself up to 5'10". He didn't think anyone would buy 5'11".) I don't think it was cheap or dirty so much as really dumb. I don't think the fact that Ovechkin was smiling after the game means he was delighted - 40 minutes later - that he put a guy down on the ice. This is just a guess, but it probably means he was really excited that his team beat one of the best teams in the NHL (and thorougly deserved that win by the way - the Caps caught the Sabres flat-footed and outworked them for the entire game). I don't think he should be tossed from the league. I don't think he should be sent back to Russia. I don't think his mother should be killed. I don't think he should have fecal matter thrown at him when he comes to Buffalo on the 26th. If you want to boo, hey knock yourselves out, I guess. But Sabres "fans," those of you who never watched a hockey before last year's playoff run, shut the hell up and go back in the hole you came from because you're making the rest of us look like idiots.

However, non-Sabres fans of the world, let's just lose the argument that Danny was diving, okay? I'm not going to sit here and tell you the guy has never embellished a hit before - even though I don't think he's done it much this season, he is very, very good at it - but I think it's clear that he didn't see this hit coming at all. His head hit the freakin' wall! He did not throw himself at the wall, he did not magically open the door to cushion the blow, he did not flip his helmet off to make it look more dramatic, he did not stay on the ice for attention. He wasn't back for his next shift because it didn't hurt. He was back for his next shift because he's a tough little nut.

Mostly, I just wanted to make this post to assure everyone here that I'm not One Of Those Sabres Fans. I know we've (somewhat deservedly) developed a reputation for being assholes. I blame that on a few things - success going to people's heads, bandwagon fans who don't really watch or understand hockey, and a few random fans who would be assholes no matter who they were cheering for. I repeat, I am not One Of Them! Yes, I think my team was crippled by injuries during last season's playoffs and I think that worked to the advantage of the Hurricanes - if your team lost your most dynamic offensive player, four of six defensive starters, and had two guys playing their FIRST NHL GAME in games 6 and 7 of the conference finals, you'd feel the same way. However, I also think the Hurricanes were a very talented team who completely earned the Cup they won. Yes, I think the Stanley Cups means more to northern communities than they do in places like Florida and Atlanta. I grew up in the south, I visit often... most people don't care about hockey. However, I don't think that makes individuals in the south who are fans any lesser fans. I love that hockey is growing in the south and I love people who are embracing hockey even though much of their region hasn't yet. Yes, I was screaming bloody murder at the TV Saturday night. For a fanbase who has seen Pat Lafontaine's career end early because of concussion problems and is currently missing one of its best young players because of post-concussion syndrome, watching one of our guy's head bounce off a wall is stomach-churning. I'm glad Goose flew in from wherever he was to beat Ovechkin around the head a bit, I'm glad Mair was willing to drop the gloves with whomever wanted to go (though I still don't understand why he got tossed when Muir didn't - and the Muir/Mair thing led to quite a "Who's On First?" like conversation at our house). I'm glad all the players on my bench were irate and screaming and yelling because they thought one of their boys was mistreated. However, I still think Alexander Ovechkin is one of the most exciting, most pleasant, most smile-inducing talents to hit the NHL in a very long time and I will continue to enjoy watching him play.

I am not One Of Those Sabres Fans.

All that said, the skate was definitely in the crease.


hockeygirl said...

I've been out of the loop for a few days and just saw the hit. As a secret Sabres fan (whoops, it's out now), I agree with what you said. Nobody hurts le petit Briere so good for you Gaustad.

Anonymous said...

I wish the Sabres fans in Raleigh were more like you. This is indeed a 'fair and balanced' post.

I agree: Ovechkin was out of line and I'd hate 1) to see a kid like that develop a reputation as a goon and 2) see him hurt somebody a la Erik Cole. He needs coaching and discipline.

Jordi said...

I reckon there's plenty of space for him to rectify his mistake. He's just become a scapegoat for all these problems. Besides, it shows that he's probably going to get a talking to by his parents or the team and will learn it.

And good god he's a kid, he got caught up in the moment and such. There are far more vindictive happenings and somehow the NHL fanbase has become a "no way! he didn't" "oh yes he did!" "Don't go there sistah!"

Heather B. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Heather B. said...

hockeygirl, I'm totally calling Danny "la petit Briere" from now on. Love it.

jordi, I totally agree that Alex is young and got caught up in the moment. I read a transcript of some conference call today and I actually felt a little sorry for him and the way people were piling on him. I have no doubt that he feels bad and no doubt that he'll be more careful in the future. I just don't think it would hurt for the league to give him a little slap on the wrist (but bigger than $100 - are you kidding me? I know that's standard but Campbell and Bettman do know these guys aren't making minimum wage, right?) to remind him and everyone else that hitting a guy from behind isn't okay. Being preventative instead of reactionary for once wouldn't destroy the system.

Jordi said...

I'm unsure whether this encourages anything. NHL management are still a bunch of clowns and nothing will change even if they give out the rare suspension. If fans want to see changes, I want to see more than just the slap on the wrist. And not penalty-wise. I think the refs need a new book, the old one is getting hard to read.

hockeygirl said...

Heather: I know I said it on some other post too, but if you are going to call him that, make sure it's "le petit" not "la" because that's feminine. :) Don't want to take away his masculinity.