Sports Thoughts from the Great White North
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          He can rarely keep a smile off of his face, and although he is still learning the English language, he speaks about his game with such enthusiasm that it's hard not to take notice. He carries that enthusiasm everywhere he goes, and especially onto the ice, where he's quickly becoming the NHL's biggest star.

 

            That's right; move over Sidney, the real star of the NHL is Alex Ovechkin.

 

            Now all you Crosby lovers relax, he is still arguably the most talented player the game has today, and NHL's golden boy of marketing. But, aside from that, he may be the most boring "great one" the NHL has ever had - even making Gretzky look like the Dennis Rodman of the NHL. It's not his fault either, the NHL breeds players to check their ego at the door when they enter the league, and although it is better for team building, it cripples showmanship - with exhibit A being that ugly shoot-out competition at the All-Star game. In what was supposed to be the nights best event, we were treated to players that were too afraid to look stupid, instead of wanting to look good.

            Enter Alex Ovechkin - seemingly immune to the "don't look foolish" disease that plagues most NHL'ers - tried some fancy stuff in the event, and even though he failed, he brought flair and excitement to something that sorely needed it.

            Playing on the Capitals, many don't get to see Ovechkin on a nightly basis. But those who do are beginning to become more enamored with the young star from Russia, and he is slowly supplementing Crosby as one of the games most popular. And while we are all being force fed the Crosby Kool-Aid by the NHL, I find myself wanting to watch more Alex than Sid.

            Perhaps it is because Alex at this point is a more prolific scorer, notching a league best 39 goals so far, and on pace to crack 60 for the year? Or maybe it is because he leads his team in hits with 139, checking in at 11th in the league? Or is it because with a vibrant personality, he is adorned by the NHL media and fans alike?

            Maybe singling out one reason is a tad unfair, as it is a mix of all the above qualities that make him the most exciting player to watch in the NHL. Unfortunately, with the league going full steam ahead with the Crosby train, he'll have to maintain his outstanding play to even have a shot at the recognition he deserves. This is the way of the NHL though, hitching their wagons to a media-friendly English speaking Canadian who is about as charismatic as a box of nails.

             In North America we have long been biased towards Russian NHL players due to the stigmas placed on them by media and fans alike. These biases stem from hard feelings towards players like Pavel Bure and Alex Kovalev, who played for pay-checks and personal accolades, something that doesn't sit very well with hardcore NHL fans (In fairness, Kovalev seems to be coming around). This is truly not the case with Ovechkin, who seems to embrace the game with love and passion that can be traced back to when he was 2 years old, when he first grabbed a stick.

            The NHL would be wise to recognize that while they are promoting the league as Crosby's personal playground, there are other kids on the block too. The face of the league doesn't always have to be a clean cut, North American kid who says all the right things when asked. But that it could be a scruffy looking, free-wheeling Russian kid who brings fans into and out of their seats on a nightly basis.

            With Crosby injured and many young North American skaters being as dull as bricks (Crosby included) The time is now for the NHL to start the Ovechkin marketing spree, after all he is the most exciting player they have.

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