Photo: Greg Fiume/Washington Capitals
When the news broke that Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin would sit out the 2019 NHL All-Star Game (to which he was elected as the Metropolitan Division team captain) to conserve energy and recuperate for another Capitals’ playoff run, many, if not all Capitals fans were in support of the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner for the fact that he has done so much for the . However, others were less than pleased about the news, criticizing the Caps’ captain for “thinking about himself”. However, those who oppose Ovechkin’s decision need to consider just how much the future Hall of Famer has done for the NHL’s annual star-studded festivities.
In a tweet earlier today, The Hockey Podcast’s Dimitri Filipovic highlighted just a few of them moments in which Ovechkin used the All-Star Game to elevate the fun of the festivities and even do good for the game of hockey.
I don’t know I’d say Ovechkin has already done his share of work carrying the All Star festivities over the years pic.twitter.com/OYwcSBuKUt
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) January 2, 2019
One of The Great Eight’s earliest All-Star Game moments came during the 2009 starfest, when he teamed up with Pittsburgh Penguins star and fellow countryman Evgeni Malkin, who Ovechkin was believed to have a rift with at the time, to provide a little comedy to the Skills Competition. Ovechkin was due to take part in the Breakaway Challenge and upon reaching his second turn, with the help of Malkin, adorned himself in a straw hat with a tiny Canadian flag sticking from the top and sunglasses, and fresh with a squirt of Gatorade (with Malkin’s assistance), and using both his stick and Malkin’s, corralled the puck towards the net, and throwing one stick away, shot and scored. The crowd at Bell Centre in Montreal, announcers (with the exception of Don Cherry), and fellow players alike ate it up, and the moment certainly garnered attention for the NHL and the All-Star Game.
Another, and perhaps even more memorable moment came during the 2015 NHL All-Star Game Player Draft (the format is no longer being used), when Ovechkin insisted on being picked last, which would guarantee him a car presented by Honda. The reason behind Oveckhin’s persistence (which despite it, he was not picked last) was later revealed to be that Ovechkin wanted a car to donate to the Washington Ice Dogs, a local special needs hockey team, that included Ovechkin superfan Ann Schaab. The gesture was lauded around the NHL and the sports world, further raising the profile of the NHL and the All-Star Game as well as bringing attention to the importance of providing for special needs hockey teams.
Playing alongside longtime rival Sidney Crosby during the 2017 and 2018 All-Star Games certainly made for must-watch hockey, and the 2017 game was the highest-rated All-Star event since 2004.
So, no matter how much critics berate the 33-year old former first overall pick with calls of being “selfish” or “not deserving”, it’s important to keep in mind that those sentiments could be no further from the truth. Rather than raise awareness of himself, Ovechkin has made the NHL All-Star Game a must-see event by hockey and non-hockey fans alike. Despite the influx of young stars in the league over the last several seasons, there is no doubt Ovechkin is still one of the faces of the NHL, and has used that status to help raise the profile of the league and one of it’s biggest events of the season.
By Michael Fleetwood