Some Monday musings for your dining and dancing pleasure:
• If Alex Ovechkin chooses to thumb his nose at the NHL and participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, don’t expect any repercussions from his boss. Washington Capitals (and soon to be Washington Wizards and Verizon Center) owner Ted Leonsis signs Ovechkin’s very large checks and realizes the inherent risk of injury, but he also realizes Ovechkin is passionate about representing his country and won’t stand in his superstar’s way.
In a profile on Ovechkin in THN’s 12th annual 100 People of Power and Influence issue, which is on newsstands Dec. 21, Leonsis threw his total support behind Ovechkin.
“When you have children, the love is unconditional,” Leonsis said. “I know this is really, really important to him and his family, and I view it as my job to create a culture and an atmosphere where he knows that the love is returned. So I always have his back. So I’ve told him, ‘If this is what you want to do, I’m going to do my best to help make it happen.’
“I hope it never comes to the league says no and Alex says he’s going, because I’d probably fly him over myself. He’s very committed and he’s very passionate about it and he’s very committed because we’ve talked about, ‘What happens if you get hurt?’ And he says, ‘Well I could get hurt riding my bike or I could get hurt in practice.’ ”
In the end, Ovechkin’s insistence on playing in Sochi may be the tipping point in the NHL relenting and allowing the players to participate. It will undoubtedly come down to a collective bargaining issue in the next agreement and the betting here is the league will relent to make it look as though it is giving the players a concession.
• Is there any possibility we can claim a mulligan on our prediction for the winner of the Stanley Cup? In case you’ve forgotten, we picked the Philadelphia Flyers to win it all this season.
Since replacing John Stevens with Peter Laviolette, the Flyers have gone 1-4 and been outscored 19-10. What’s worse is the Flyers are right up against the cap and have little freedom to change their roster, unless you include the signing of John Grahame to a minor league tryout, a move that reeks of desperation.
Of all the problems we thought the Flyers might have this season, a lack of intestinal fortitude was one none of us ever saw coming.
• This is a little troubling. Those who have a proclivity for gaming can actually bet on the results of games involving 16-year-old players.
There are betting lines for both Ontario League and Western League games at bwin.com, an online sports book based in Gibraltar that bills itself as ‘the world’s biggest online gaming platform.’
Unfortunately, there’s not a single thing the Canadian Hockey League can do about it, but when you have young players making so little money and facing such long odds of actually making the NHL, you can imagine there are some built-in potential problems.
The junior leagues are aware of the problem and have a policy in place, but it would be almost impossible to monitor. As it stands, players on teams that are located in cities with casinos are banned from going to those establishments.
The more cynical among us might say betting is a huge part of U.S. college sports, so why should junior hockey be any different? That might be true, but it doesn’t make it any less unseemly.
• You think there aren’t attendance problems in the NHL this season? Well, consider this: the Colorado Avalanche has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the league this season and currently sits in first place in the Northwest Division with an exciting young team.
Going into Tuesday night’s game against the Washington Capitals, Colorado had announced crowds of 11,435 Dec. 9 against the Minnesota Wild, 12,188 Dec. 11 against the Tampa Bay Lightning and 11,448 Dec. 13 against the Calgary Flames – a game in which they took over top spot in the division. In fact, the Avalanche has recorded its four lowest crowds in franchise history this season.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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