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Rambler's Top100

15 июля 2013 года.
Kovalchuk sticks it to arrogant NHL; Chooses home over money // The Gazette

Todd, Jack.

If there is one word that describes the National Hockey League as run by Gary Bettman (in cahoots with the likes of Jeremy Jacobs and Murray Edwards), it is arrogance.

Arrogance toward the fans through the endless lockouts.

Arrogance toward the players.

Arrogance in their dealings with the IIHF and the IOC.

Arrogance toward the game of hockey itself, which Bettman & Co. regard as their private plaything, to do with as they please.

That's why superstar Ilya Kovalchuk's decision to return to Russia is a watershed moment. Kovalchuk isn't the first, but he's the biggest: The NHL can no longer claim the best players in the world play here, because it's no longer true.

To his credit, New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello accepted Kovalchuk's defection with class. Kovalchuk chose home over money and you can't knock a guy for that, although the Don Cherrys and Mike Milburys will no doubt find a way.

But this isn't some Alexander Radulov, slouching his way from league to league and playing when he feels like showing up. This is a fully acclimated, intelligent, thoughtful star who is fluent in English and loves the rough stuff. Apart from his struggles during his early days with the Devils, Kovalchuk has always produced. Will his defection hurt the NHL? Not really. The league can afford to be arrogant because the fans keep coming no matter who is on the ice.

But Kovalchuk's decision underlines the basic truth: The KHL is now a player in the global game. Not quite the WHA, perhaps, but a real competitor, especially for homegrown talent.

How long will it be before Swedish and Finnish players, fed up with their confinement on a too-small ice surface in a league that rewards brutality over skill, begin to feel the ice is whiter on the other side of the pond? If they also decide that money isn't everything and choose the KHL or the Swedish Elite League over the NHL, it could rock the NHL to its foundations.

For now, it's just one superstar. But Ilya Kovalchuk will be missed, on and off the ice. It wasn't me, see, it was this friend I trusted: Just once - JUST ONCE - we'd love to hear an athlete who gets busted using performance-enhancing drugs step up and say: "I done it, your honour. I'm guilty as sin and I deserve to be suspended for the next 500 years."

Instead, we get the excuses. I covered a news conference at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when C.J. Hunter - sprinter Marion Jones's ex and every bit as dirty as she was - used so many contorted excuses, I said he blamed everything but fluctuations in his menstrual cycle after he tested positive.

Canadian Ben Johnson launched the great tradition in Seoul when he said that, um, his water bottle was, um, spiked or something after testing positive for stanozolol. Since then, we've had thousands of variations on the spiked water-bottle theme - but it's always something.

For a while Sunday, I thought Tyson Gay was going to reverse the trend at last when he announced the USADA had informed him that he tested positive: "I don't have a sabotage story," Gay said. "I don't have any lies. I don't have anything to say to make this seem like it was a mistake or it was on USADA's hands, someone playing games," Gay went on.

At that point, I'm thinking: "Hallelujah! Truth at last. But then it all changed, and Gay joined the long parade of cheaters who can't resist blaming something or someone else: "I don't have any of those stories. I basically put my trust in someone and I was let down."

Asked who let him down, Gay answered: "I can't really say it. Sometimes a human being naturally, generally trusts somebody. That's what people do."

Yes, people do. They trust athletes - until the athletes lie and cheat. Gay's positive test doesn't even rank as a mild surprise. Nor does his excuse. One follows the other like the horse and carriage. Half of a good thing:Through three games in this very young CFL season, the Alouettes defence has been a consistent surprise.

The good kind of surprise. The team's Achilles heel even during the Grey Cup years, the defence has been at its ball-hawking best and its goal-line stands have approached the heroic.

Led by Kyries Hebert (my favourite Als defender since the days of Junior Ah You) the defence has been superb.

The offence? Not so much.

After a positively sickly performance at home against Winnipeg, the offence showed some flashes against Calgary (good of them to recognize that Arland Bruce III is now plying his trade at Percival Molson), but overall, the result was pathetic.

One offensive touchdown. Barely 200 yards passing from Anthony Calvillo, who used to put up that much throwing left-handed. Endless opportunities squandered. Another dismal home loss.

The Als look out of sync. Calvillo, after a strong opening game to the season, looks out of sync. Catches aren't being made. Blocks are missed. Calvillo is missing receivers. Promising drives peter out in mental mistakes and plays that aren't made.

What's wrong? For openers, I'm not sure why new head coach Dan Hawkins and his staff would throw out a Marc Trestman system that functioned brilliantly - but let's assume that they know what they're doing and that this will eventually come together.

The good news is that Montreal isn't the only team in the East that is struggling. Defending Grey Cup champion Toronto is 1-2. But with perennial all-star and team leader Scott Flory joining fellow starting guard Andrew Woodruff on the injured list, protecting Calvillo is going to be even more difficult when the Als head to Calgary this week with their season threatening to run off the rails.

It's been a great run for Calvillo & Co. since A.C. succeeded Tracy Ham - but it could be that we're seeing the beginning of the end.

Time for the other bomb to drop:Major League Baseball's decision to put off suspensions for as many as 20 players implicated in the Biogenesis investigation until after the All-Star game was a clumsy PR move that could only backfire.

However it was handled, this one was going to hit baseball like a Bob Gibson fastball to the jaw. There are huge names involved, beginning with Alex Rodriguez (who is still playing games with the Yankees in his rehab), Ryan Braun (proving getting off on a technicality doesn't mean you're clean) and Toronto's Melky Cabrera (some guys never learn).

You would expect baseball to come down on these guys with both cleats. But the message is still mixed: Why, for instance, are the bogus records put up by Barry Bonds still on the books? If baseball is going to suspend the cheaters, it has to be consistent and dump the "records" put up by the biggest cheat of them all.

Страничка Ильи Ковальчука на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


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