Two hockey superstars drew plenty of attention to themselves yesterday, and for very different reasons.
Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals was suspended for three games by the NHL’s local disciplinarian, Brendan Shanahan.
Only a few hours earlier, the Boston Bruins’ goalie Tim Thomas was conspicuously absent from the traditional proceedings at the White House to honor the Stanley Cup champions.
Needless to say, both events have been heavily discussed on Twitter and hockey sites all over the internet. And no, I wouldn’t say a majority of fans have come to the players’ defense.
Starting with Ovi, the Russian appears to have done his Capitals team a great disservice taking a suspension at this point of the year. With Nicklas Backstrom still up in the press box with a concussion-related injury and Mike Green suffering a seemingly incurable groin injury, Washington needs to keep the rest of the offensive skill players on the ice. Now after a reckless hit by Alex Ovechkin on Zbynek Michalek, the Caps are all of a sudden short their three best skaters.
Perhaps just as important as the Capitals’ thinning roster is the statement sent to the league by Brendan Shanahan. There will be no double-standards for the star players if they decide they want to target the head. The Department of Player Safety is doling out blind justice, and not even Alex Ovechkin is exempt from playing inside the rules. For so many years I’ve seen Ovechkin leave his feet to make those big checks along the boards. It’s good to see that Shanahan will enforce the rules, even if it means the Capitals’ darling son will have to stay off the ice. Here’s the video of the suspension breakdown.
And yes, the Panthers will play the Capitals February 1, the final game of his three-game suspension. So if you bought your tickets to see some sweet Ovi action, get ready for Jay Beagle instead.
The other man making news is Mr. Tim Thomas, who spurned a chance to visit the White House and President Barack Obama with the rest of his Stanley Cup winning team. His reasons were politically charged, as his Facebook post confirmed that he was not happy that “the Federal government has grown out of control” and “this is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.”
Response from the hockey world is varied, but most of the good tweets and articles can be found here.
Putting petty politics aside for a minute, I’m not a fan of Tim Thomas’ move (or decision not to). As I have said on my Twitter, if the leader of the free world takes time out of his ridiculously busy schedule to talk to a hockey team, you show up and grin and bear the experience. This Chicago Tribune article shows an example of the right way to handle a visit to the White House from a staunch conservative on the 1985 Chicago Bears team. Thomas has to realize that the tradition of bringing the team over to the White House is supposed to be above the political fray instead of generate it.
But at the same time, as a reasonable American, I can understand Thomas’ right to do what he did and say what he said. He can’t be forced to attend the visit, and he can’t be forced to agree with Obama. The freedom of speech in this country defends Thomas’ right to make a statement concerning how the country is being run.
But my beef is this: if Thomas really disliked Obama’s policies so far and has some better ideas, why didn’t he just go to the White House and tell the president himself?
Nobody can truly be sure of that answer, like nobody can be sure why Ovechkin decided to leave his feet to attack the head of a previously concussed player. That’s not showing a lot of respect, but then again Thomas didn’t show much either.
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