The Contrarian – Alexander Ovechkin’s Day Off

by Demetri Fragopoulos on January 31, 2016

Should the NHL really be issuing suspensions to All Stars who want to take the day off?

“He doesn’t have a fever but he says his stomach hurts and he’s seeing spots. Feel his hands, they’re cold and clammy.” – Brian MacLellan, GM of the Washington Capitals

“I feel fine. I get up. I got All-Star Game to go to.” – Alex Ovechkin

“No!  You’re not going to the game like this now.” – Barry Trotz

 “You’re letting him stay home? If I were bleeding out my eyes the League still makes me go to the game. Why should he get to ditch game when everyone else has to go?” – Jaromir Jagr

“I can assure you that Alexander is one very sick boy.” – Trotz

“What is so dangerous about a character like Ovechkin is he gives good players bad ideas.” – Gary Bettman

“The key to faking out the league is clammy hands. It’s good non-specific symptom; I’m big believer in it. You fake a stomach cramp, and when you’re bent over, moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It’s a little childish and stupid, but then, so is All-Star Game.” – Ovechkin

“Alexander you’re my hero. Chicago is a great place to cruse in a Ferrari. Come on by. My place is in Shermer.” – Jonathan Toews

“Last thing that I need in this point of my career is a thousand Ove disciples skating around this league. He jeopardizes my ability to effectively run this League.” – Bettman

“Oh he’s very popular Gary. The shooters, the statheads, geeks, media hounds, and rinkrats – they all adore him. They think he’s a righteous dude.” – Bill Daly

“I did not achieve this position in life by having some snot-nosed Cap leave my cheese out in the wind. They are both suspended!” – Bettman

Well that is the basic story outline if it were going to be made into a movie – John Hughes style.

Travis Hughes (I doubt he is related to John Hughes but you never know) of SB Nation writes that he is good with the one-game suspensions handed down to Ovechkin and Toews this year for passing on the All-Star weekend festivities.



In his words, “I’d put money down that these guys are legitimately hurt and think the rest over the All-Star break is important enough to miss the game”, but “Per League rules, a player who is named to the NHL All-Star Game and does not participate shall be suspended for one regular season game.”

The justification behind the rule is that if players were able to opt out, then it would look like the NFL Pro Bowl where more than half do not participate. It would look bad on the NHL, its sponsors, and the fans paying to go the event if the stars don’t show up.

Again from Travis: “It’s a valuable event for a lot of reasons we don’t see on TV, and it’s not going anywhere. But it only works if the majority of the league’s top players are there,” and “The league needs incentive for its players to be there.”

TSN’s Darren Dreger comments on the suspensions by saying, “This hurts the gathering here in Nashville”, “It taints the weekend to some degree” and is “disappointing from a fan perspective.”

Yet he also comments that, “It’s not that big of a deal,” and “[The clubs] knew that they would have to accept the discipline.”

Even last year there were similar comments when Sidney Crosby pulled out. Damien Cox reported back then that people were thinking of strengthening the suspension to two or possibly three games and that type of talk has surfaced this year too.

The basic argument is that you need the stars to show up to the game, or else it will not be successful.

Counter argument – John Scott. The fans voted him in probably in a combination of protest and silliness, but he was still voted in and he wants to play in the game.

Yet he revealed that someone in the league asked him not to participate. Sit this one out. Don’t embarrass yourself or your family. He was not going to be swayed.

But I ask you, if he were to decline graciously as most people think he should have, would he have been suspended as well?

It matters because if it is fine that he is told to stay away and not get suspended yet the Ovechkins, Toews, Crosbys, Lidstroms and Datsyuks do, then it is a double standard and the rule is useless.

Counter argument – While Dreger reports that the clubs were fine with it and accepted the league’s decision, yet it’s the players who lose a day of salary. If the same player were too ill to play in a regular season game, their clubs do not suspend them for being ill or hurt, even if they only needed a personal day.

What if in the game before the weekend, a voted in player breaks a hand or gets concussed? The rule still says that they have to participate in the event.

This rule is ludicrous.

Counter argument – How do you justify it to the season ticket holders, fans that bought tickets to that specific and meaningful regular season game to see a specific star player, only to be told that he was suspended because he wanted to miss a meaningless game a few days earlier?

How do you tell the fantasy hockey poolies or bettors on hockey that a meaningless game is more important?

Everyone is just as important and this rule only hurts everyone.

Counter argument – Travis Hughes describes the rule as an incentive. Some believe that the “incentive” should be increased; however, I fail to see it that way. If you do not play, you get punished.

Jagr was asking people not to vote for him so he could avoid the decision to play or take the penalty. Does that make sense for the NHL?

An incentive to me would be if you come and play we’ll give you some swag and a bit of cash for your troubles. Here is a load of All-Star gear and paraphernalia to take back with you so that you can donate to charity or auction off for causes that you believe in. Make us, the players and the league, look good to the fans in your hometowns.

To that end, I suggest that the NHL change the All-Star format by having one, and only one, player represent each team.

If Toews is fighting a cold, call Artemi Panarin. If Alexander Ovechkin needs to rest, give the tap to Evgeny Kuznetsov.

No suspensions for players that want to stay home or go somewhere warm to relax.

The fans will not care if every “star” is not present for the game, as long as someone is there. The debates about who should or should not be there bring much attention.

As far as this year’s 3-on-3 format goes, I would be very worried if I had Ben Bishop, Roberto Luongo, Braden Holtby, Cory Schneider, Devan Dubnyk, Pekka Rinne, John Gibson and Jonathan Quick.

A goalie’s psyche can be fragile at the best of times. How these guys come out of the shoot-fest in Nashville remains to be seen, but my fear is that some of them might come back the worse for wear.

Hopefully none get hurt, but they will be trying to prevent a lot of rubber from getting by them and will not be given much defensive support from this system.

If I’m one of those tenders, I’d be seriously thinking of going into the washroom, make some guttural noises and come back to the dressing room with clammy palms.

It is not a video game where a player can drink more health elixir or increase a level in their hit points. Players need to rest whenever they can. Rest can only be attained by resting.

“The season moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.” – Ovechkin

Oh yeah!