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марта 2009 года.
Ovechkin keeps the pot boiling // The Globe and Mail.
Unapologetic Capitals star shows sense of humour, but no spontaneity with sartorial shot at Cherry
Taken by itself, Alexander Ovechkin's celebration of his 50th goal of the season last week was no big deal.
"If you win the lottery, a million dollars, you go to the bar and drink a lot. I scored 50 goals and I just celebrated," Ovechkin told the usual media mob in Toronto yesterday after the Washington Capitals' game-day skate at the Air Canada Centre.
However, the concern is that Ovechkin crossed the line from spontaneity to rehearsed self-glorification. No one wants to see the NHL slide into the me-first behaviour that plagues the NFL and Major League Baseball, particularly when it concerns the player whose skill and exuberance make him the best bet to grab the interest of the casual or non-fans since Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
There was no spontaneity about Ovechkin's appearance for the traditional soccer warm-up game shortly before last night's game between the Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs, although it was an amusing jab at one of his harshest critics. He wore Hockey Night in Canada boxer shorts and a Coach's Corner T-shirt with the word "Respect" stencilled on the back. It was a playful shot at CBC broadcaster Don Cherry, who has long railed against Ovechkin's celebrations.
Ovechkin, his coach, Bruce Boudreau, and the coach of the Maple Leafs for that matter, all insisted that it was just in fun when he dropped his stick on the ice last Thursday after scoring his 50th against the Tampa Bay Lightning and warmed his hands on it as if it were on fire.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson noted that celebrations have long been part of hockey. He and Boudreau were teammates of former Leafs enforcer Dave (Tiger) Williams, who rode his stick after one of his rare goals.
"Everybody gets excited when they score," Wilson said. "I think this has been blown way out of proportion."
In 1965, when New York Giants receiver Homer Jones became the first professional football player to spike the ball after a touchdown, everyone thought it was cool. Even cooler was Houston Oilers receiver Billy (White Shoes) Johnson, who introduced the Funky Chicken to the NFL in the 1970s.
But it was a slippery slope for football and then baseball. Today, the NFL is a league full of Look-At-Me clowns who celebrate routine tackles as if they had just made a goal-line stand at the Super Bowl. Baseball has no shortage of strutting poseurs who turn triples and doubles into singles because they drop their bat at home plate and admire long fly balls that hit the fence instead of sailing over it for a home run.
Not even the introduction of the anti-celebration rule by the NFL in 1984 curbed the showboats. Terrell Owens, the embodiment of our me-first culture, hit one of the many lowlights of his career a few years ago when he caught a touchdown pass, pulled a Sharpie out of his sock, signed the football and handed it to his financial adviser, who was seated nearby.
Boudreau and Wilson agreed there is no place for such shenanigans in the NHL. But both think there is too much fuss over Ovechkin's celebration. As usual, Wilson blamed the media.
"[It's] because you guys have nothing better to talk about, to be perfectly honest," Wilson said. "I haven't heard or seen on ESPN in the United States a big deal about this. It's up here [in Canada]."
Invoking ESPN, that great arbiter of taste, was an interesting twist. No television network in the world has done more to glorify the self-promoters of sport. The explosion of look-at-me behaviour in the past 25 years is because those athletes know their cheap antics will be played repeatedly on ESPN's SportsCenter , the ratings monster of highlight shows.
While celebrations are not new to the NHL, rehearsed skits are. Ovechkin's hand-warming routine did not occur to him just after he put the puck in the net. He said it was dreamed up by teammate Jose Theodore, which means he is a much better choreographer than he is a goaltender.
Boudreau seems to have changed his tune on the matter. At the time, he said he didn't like it and would talk to Ovechkin about it. Yesterday, he said there was nothing wrong with it because it was a spontaneous gesture. However, the coach did make a good point about the irony in chastising a Russian player for his exuberance.
"As Canadians, we tend to be conservative," Boudreau said. "Twenty-five years ago, we got mad at the Russians for showing no emotion. Now they're showing emotion and we're mad at them again."
Cherry's concern, like many people in hockey, has more to do with showing up the other team than showing off.
Ovechkin, though, is unrepentant.
"He can say whatever he wants," Ovechkin said of Cherry. "I think fans love it when something is going on around the league," although he added that Cherry's "TV show is very popular, I think, and I like it."
Ovechkin said he meant no disrespect to the Lightning, although his developing grasp of English lent an unwitting irony to his answer.
"I don't want to show them disrespect. It's all about my team and it's all about me."
Ovechkin scored his 51st goal in Washington's 3-2 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs last night but his celebration was more subdued.