Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Russian Formalists

I'm still a relatively new fan of hockey, and I have to say that one of the things I don't like about the NHL is the Canadian hockey establishment's sense of entitlement and entrenched hostility to foreigners. Now, don't get me wrong readers; I love Canada and her people and hockey players. What I don't like is that the Canadian hockey establishment, as incarnated by the CBC Sports division, the Globe and Mail, and (God bless him) Don Cherry gears its coverage and its favor mostly towards Canadians. Understandable, of course, and the Canadian media's fawning over Sidney Crosby is justfied because Sidney Crosby is really, really, really good. BUT the little fellow doesn't lead the league in points or in goals, and more to the point: is there anything particularly interesting or glamourous about Sidney Crosby?

Sure, he's a great player and all, but I think I prefer the flashy Russians. Not only are Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Ovechkin powerhouses; they're exciting. Ilya and Alex are, for my money, the two most dynamic players in the league today, and why the NHL marketing folks aren't building a huge press campaign touting them as the Two Czars is beyond me. Crosby is great, but he's boring as a personality, and the only reason he gets more attention than Kovalchuk and Ovechkin is less because the Canadian media gravitates to its own than it hates Russians. Yes, you heard me; I'm accusing the Canadian hockey establishment of anti-Russian, anti-East European racism. If Ilya Kovalchuk had been born in Ontario and named Greg MacDonald, he'd be the biggest star in the NHL. Don't pretend to not know what I'm talking about...

Some of this is just a personal taste, of course. Part of the reason I like Ovechkin and Kovalchuk so much is because I like their flair and exoticism; Sidney Crosby just reminds me of everyone I went to high school with.

Think of the possible slogans that the NHL could use in a marketing onslaught selling Kovalchuk and Ovechkin as the New Russian Faces of the NHL: the Kovy and Ovie Show, the Russian Conquest, Czar Ilya and Czarovitch Alexander (or the other way around, depending on which one has the highest amount of goals at the time), the Double Tsar, the Cossacks, the Rushin' Russians, the Russian Guns, the Moscow Murderers, the Russian Front, and on and on and on...

Like I said, why the NHL doesn't sell Kovy and Alex together is beyond me. I reckon that with Dany Heatley and Sidney Crosby injured they'll get a chance to astonish in the All-Star Game.

Meanwhile, Kovalchuk has gone a few games without scoring a goal or registering a point. It's time he got a few hat tricks, to defend his record from his buddy and put the Thrashers in first (and third) place.

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