Spectacle. It's a word you don't often hear associated with the NHL. But when Alex Ovechkin took to the ice to perform in the NHL's Breakaway Challenge, that's exactly what it was. The Washington Capital performed a few tricky moves, then skated back to the blue line for some assistance from Russian national teammate Evgeni Malkin. Hat on, sunglasses polished, Ovechkin completed his final breakaway attempt, then basked in the glory of the cheering crowd.
While other skaters seemed like they were in a race to get the whole event over with, Ovechkin did exactly what the NHL intended this event to do: imitate the NBA Slam-dunk competition. Like when Amare Stoudemire slammed home a basketball that had just riccocheted off Steve Nash's head, Ovechkin gave the crowd something to laugh at and be dazzled by.
The Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard was a force to be reckoned with under the basket for a couple seasons, but when he tied a Superman cape around his neck and slammed home what was otherwise a 3-star dunk, he rocketed to stardom in the NBA. It's about the fun and the spectacle. Sure, all the players in the Breakaway Challenge were talented, but who gave us something to talk about the next day?
To put it succinctly, Ovechkin gets it.
Some hockey players are so dumbfounded by the media spotlight, that they shy away from it. Ovechkin, on the other hand, knows that the NHL needs a star, not a series of lampposts.
There are so many opportunities for boastfullness during the NHL All-Star competition, but the most you'll ever get out of Sidney Crosby or Dany Heatley is a light-hearted chuckle and a joking challenge to his teammmates. I don't mean to offend, but it's the same old, tired shit, and it doesn't get hits on youtube.
To the so-called stars of the NHL: bring something new and remarkable to the fans or 20% of your salary will continue to drain into the pockets of owners through escrow. Ovechkin gets it. How long before you catch on?