Friday, August 20, 2010

Should an Ovechkin Bio Be So Unapologetically Sid-centric?

By Artistry and Finesse

In case you missed it, Japers' Rink provided a little bit of buzz this week by posting two excerpts from a forthcoming unauthorized biography of Alexander Ovechkin by Damien Cox and Gare Joyce, entitled "The Ovechkin Project:  A Behind-The-Scenes Look at Hockey's Most Dangerous Player."  If you don't feel like navigating a Washington Capitals' fansite, you can read the excerpts here and here.  What did we learn from these early glimpses at the book?  Nothing Max Talbot didn't already know, but perhaps most notable is that these excerpts show that the Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry goes back to well before their time in the NHL and the Capitals' captain has yet to escape from Sid's shadow.  You can imagine how the Caps' fans are reacting to this "news."  (Hint:  Not well.)  But given that this book is supposed to be about Ovechkin, should it be so unapologetically Sid-centric?  GTOG weighs in after the jump...

Artistry:   Loved the story about the Crosby-Ovechkin encounter at 2005 World Juniors.  A narrative of on-ice drama is what the reader wants, and it sets the stage for the NHL rivalry to follow.  But I found the comparison between the players' handling of their relationships with agents strained and gratuitous.  I think the fact that Alex Ovechkin is a jagoff can stand alone, without an automatic reference to the fact that Sid Crosby is anything but.  That the authors felt compelled to make this point with respect to Ovechkin's off-ice conduct to me just reeks of bias.  They lost some credibility with me there.  It's like they're doing their best to make Ovechkin look like a bad guy, and I think he does just fine on his own.

Finesse:  Of course it isn't "necessary" to compare Ovechkin to Crosby in everything that they do, but if Ovechkin and Caps fans are tired of the comparisons, they have no one to blame but themselves.  Ovechkin's entry into the NHL was no doubt overshadowed by Crosby's -- Sid had all the hype, all the glamor, he was living with Mario, etc.  From their first shifts on the ice, Ovechkin and his supporters seemed to care about proving one thing and one thing only - that he was as good as, if not better than, Crosby.  Instead of celebrating Ovechkin for his own incredible talents, it became about comparing his accomplishments to Crosby's.  Ovechkin does it.  His coach does it.  His fans do it.  His teammates do it.  His owner does it.  The media does it (Mike Wise, the Washington Post columnist who probably registers as a "dull adult" on the IQ scale, can't write a column about the Caps without mentioning Crosby).

It is beyond an obsession at this point.  He has chosen to define his career not by his own excellence, but by how it compares to Crosby's.  Sid, on the other hand, has smartly managed to play down the rivalry between the two and this has led to him being evaluated on his own terms, not how he is doing compared to Ovechkin.  (It helps that Sid has the Stanley Cup and the head-to-head playoff series win.)  Here's the difference I've noticed based on being at several Pens-Caps games in both Pittsburgh and Washington.  When the game is in Pittsburgh and Sid scores, we say, "Wow, we are lucky to have him on our team."  When Ovechkin scores against the Pens in Washington, they say, "Haha, Crosby sucks!!! Ovechkin is so much better!"

We have said, and will continue to say, that Ovechkin is an amazing player.  My message to Caps fans: if these relentless comparisons to Crosby are getting on your nerves, then stop obsessing about Crosby.  Stop calling him a whiner and a diver and overrated.  He's not those things - he's a great player.  And so is Ovechkin.  Start appreciating what you have instead of denigrating what someone else has, and maybe you'll see the comparisons stop or see your guy on the other side of them.  (Or maybe not.)


Here's one thing we can agree on:  we're not buying a book about Alexander Ovechkin.  If you're interested in a real unauthorized biography, please indulge GTOG's humble recommendation:  Mario, by Lawrence Martin (1993).  Go buy this book.  It's probably not easy to find these days, but for any fan of Lemieux, it's a must read.  Here are some excerpts.  
Lemieux had wraparound vision and faultless hand-eye coordination.  Just as he could seemingly freeze-frame the other players coming at him, he could do the same with a puck moving at flash speed.  The number of times Lemieux raised his stick blade, stopped the speeding projectile in midair, and brought it softly to the ice stunned all around him.  He used his stick blade almost like a baseball glove.
In Lemieux's second season in Pittsburgh, he skated with 29-year-old Terry Ruskowski.  Martin writes:
Mario constantly suprised Ruskowski.  The former Hawk would be skating along, far afield of the play, and suddenly feel a thud against his stick.  Couldn't be the puck, his instant reaction suggested.  Four players had been between him and Mario, who had been skating with it.  But of course it was the puck - Mario had feathered it through a maze.  Mario's passes often arrived when Ruskowski was near the enemy goal.  The split second Rusko lost between the surprise of finding it on his blade and reacting to shoot cost him dearly.  "I probably would have scored another ten or eleven goals had I reacted in time." 
One night in Pittsburgh, Ruskowski was forewarned.  He lined up in the right face-off circle, opposing his checker in the enemy zone.  Mario was taking the face-off, but before he did, he skated over to Ruskowski.  "Rusko, when they drop the puck, you spin off the guy and go to the net.  And remember, keep your stick on the ice."
"Just do it," Mario said.  "Keep your stick on the ice."
Rusko followed the instruction.  He got by his checker and crashed toward the front of the goal, stick grounded.  He didn't look back, but as he was about to, the puck hit his stick blade and deflected into the goal.  Rusko was so surprised he didn't even raise his hands to celebrate.  "I just kind of looked in awe back at him.  Mario looked at me with a smirk and kind of shrugged his shoulders and skated back to center ice."

That's how you write an unauthorized biography.


  1. I think that building up the rivalry helps the Caps sell tickets and probably will help the authors sell books. But in reality there's no contest --- Sid is clearly superior. It's the same way that the Maryland basketball program plays up the "rivalry" with Duke, while the Blue Devils consider the Terrapins to be annoying but not much of a rival.

  2. Wow a bunch of Pittsburgh cunts who believe that Ovechkin is a "Jagoff" and Sid is "anything but". Get a clue guys. Who keeps getting voted by his PEERS as the best hockey player in the league? Not a little crybaby, bitch who complains to the refs that too many hats are getting thrown on the ice and punches dudes in the crotch. No, #8. The best player in the league.

  3. Thank you for setting the record straight Anonymous. I can't think of any way to refudiate your logic.