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Boudreau, Mariotti and Ovechkin

About an hour after Alex Ovechkin's suspension was announced on Monday, Bruce Boudreau talked to a few media folks in the lobby of the team hotel. Mike Vogel from Caps.com asked how much the media can influence the buzz around a possible suspension, and Boudreau accepted the challenge. (See video below.)

"Well, I think it creates a stir," Boudreau said. "I mean, we've watched TSN [replay] some sort of hits this year, and they won't let it go away, and they stir up every other media outlet that would normally have let it go....I think media has such a power these days. And then you've got all the individuals that blog on it and comment on it, and you have to be almost inhuman not to be hearing any of this stuff or reading this stuff. It's hard to turn a blind eye.

"And if this was Sidney Crosby doing this, everybody outside of Pittsburgh would have cried foul - you know, suspend him for the year. I don't think it does the game any good to have Alex suspended, but that's just me, again, that's my opinion. I've watched him for two-and-a-half years, and he's so much fun to watch that I think the game is hurting when he's not playing."

'Course, the second part of that isn't really related to the media, but Boudreau's answer reminded me to brush up on some of the finer media work in the wake of the suspension. In fairness, most of what I've read has been fine, even-handed, informative stuff. Plenty of columnists have taken issue with seeming inconsistencies in the NHL's discipline, and plenty of pointed out both the positives and the negatives of Ovechkin's playing style. Still, I'll highlight three disturbing examples.

Complex Blog: "Cheap-Shot Artist? Alex Ovechkin's Dirtiest Hits"

The content itself is actually good work, a fun and useful compilation of some of Ovechkin's worst moments. The issue is the headline, combined with the fact that Complex Blog last tagged an item with Alex Ovechkin in March of 2009, after the hot stick celebration. Maybe he did something else noteworthy during the year in between those incidents? Clearly, the pop culture image is being cemented into something a bit nastier than what Caps fans might prefer.

Mark Spector, Sportsnet, "Setting Him Straight"

And I quote:

The disciplinarian was losing his teeth, just as the player is finding a new, dangerous set of his own. One seems like he has been doing his best not to offend anybody, while the other is becoming a menace on the ice and petulant off of it, as he walks the corridors of NHL arenas like the anti-Crosby: dressed in torn up jeans and Affliction t-shirts, a cell phone on his ear and members of his posse covering each flank.

Wearing torn-up jeans does not make one petulant. Nor does wearing "Affliction t-shirts" or using mobile phones. I betcha -- and I have no proof here -- but I betcha Mark Spector has placed a cell phone to his ear at least once in an NHL arena.

As for the posse, on Monday night, Ovechkin, Semin and Varlamov walked out of a Florida hotel together. There were apparently no bodyguards, organized criminals or random thugs in sight. I suppose Ovechkin was in the middle, which technically means posse-members Semin and Varlamov were covering each flank. So the real lesson here is never walk in groups of three, lest you want the end walkers to be deemed posse flank-coverers.

As for Spector calling Ovechkin "an increasingly dangerous predator," well, that sounds scary indeed.

Jay Mariotti, FanHouse: "Ovechkin Hurts Hockey With Goon Act"

Big shocker here, I know. But Mariotti runs away with the crown. From factual errors (calling Mike Knuble a defenseman, an error that was later changed without any acknowledgment) to ridiculous mistakes (completely misinterpreting what Ovechkin meant when he said he didn't think the penalty "has to be five minutes"), Mariotti gave the haters plenty of easy ammo.

And basing his column around the word "goon" was perhaps just an easy way to attract attention; lots of players have offered fair criticism of Ovechkin in recent days, but no rational commenter has used the word "goon," in the same way that rational commenters haven't called Bush a fascist or Obama a socialist.

But where Mariotti really rises above the rest is with stuff like this:

He should respect the soil on which he makes his living, remember how many Americans viewed the gold-medal game on TV -- 34.8 million at the peak hour, or almost nine percent of the national population -- and try to keep selling what's most alluring about the sport. Instead, he's turning into some sort of crazed, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em loon, too eager to crush opponents with hunt-down hits that border on dirty and threaten to sabotage his team's Stanley Cup chances....

For whatever reason, Ovechkin would rather be Tie Domi than Wayne Gretzky. It's one thing to change a game with a big hit, as he did in the Olympics in a memorable sequence that broke Jaromir Jagr's visor and fueled a Russian rally. It's quite another to prioritize lighting people up over lighting the lamp, which used to be one of the true treats in sports before he began to overwhelm his profile with his petulance. That's what this is, too, an out-of-control ego fueled by a power trip that apparently won't end until he takes a run at everyone in the league.... Like any bully, Ovechkin somehow claims he is the victim.

Ovechkin -- almost certainly one of the game's most popular and alluring players -- needs to change his playing style because a lot of Americans rallied around a national team during the Olympics? A guy who leads the NHL in points, is second in goals and is tied for 51st in penalty minutes -- behind such goons as Evgeni Malkin -- would rather be Domi than Gretzky? A player who hasn't (yet) claimed he is the victim is now portrayed as a player who has, um, claimed he is the victim?

It's just obvious trolling for page views. And hey, God bless Mariotti for that, since I've done the same. I'm also guessing Colin Campbell isn't being influenced by such bursts of genius. But Ovechkin's play has definitely created an atmosphere where "Ovechkin is a crazed out-of-control goon" pieces aren't immediately laughed away by editors, and that's one of the enduring and unfortunate things that will come out of this week.

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 16, 2010; 8:43 AM ET
Categories:  Caps , Media  
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Comments

There is an unsubtle yet still precious irony in Mariotti calling anybody a goon.

Posted by: Hendo1 | March 16, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Jay Mariotti gets botox injections. Even he knows he's a joke.

Posted by: supuradam | March 16, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

I am becoming more and more impressed with these blogs, Stein. You're doing a great job. To put it bluntly - this isn't a blog. It's borderline investigative research and you're pointing out to readers - who wouldn't otherwis known - what's going on and who is stoking fires. These guys are the "journalisitic" equivelants of ambulance chasers. Yellow journalism at it's finest. Thanks for pointing these out so I know what websites to avoid going forward.

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | March 16, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

I don't understand BB's quote. Is he saying he thinks Alex should be suspended for a year?:
And if this was Sidney Crosby doing this, everybody outside of Pittsburgh would have cried foul - you know, suspend him for the year. I don't think it does the game any good to have Alex suspended, but that's just me, again, that's my opinion. I've watched him for two-and-a-half years, and he's so much fun to watch that I think the game is hurting when he's not playing."

Posted by: Pensfans | March 16, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Bruce was really random in that interview. Am I missing something about that Crosby reference? I can't figure out what point he is trying to make. Also, Dan, you left out the quote from Bruce that he didn't have the heart to tell Ovechkin about the suspension because all he wants to do is play hard. That's something I would say to my 10 year old when he is first learning how to check as a PeeWee and goes over the line. Isn't Ovechkin an adult with a C on his chest? Why is Bruce such an apologist for him? This whole thing makes Bruce, Ovechkin and the whole organization (including the apologists Ted and George) look bad. He played recklessly (I'm not at all accussing him of intent) and needs to be aware and more respectful of the players around him. Learn your lesson and move on and all the talk of being a goon and dirty player will fade.

Posted by: vahockeyfan | March 16, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

"He played recklessly (I'm not at all accussing him of intent) and needs to be aware and more respectful of the players around him. Learn your lesson and move on and all the talk of being a goon and dirty player will fade."

---

I agree he needs to be more like Matt Cooke, Mike Richards, or David Koci.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 16, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Cooke, Koci, Downie (not sure about Richards because he doesn't seem to be a repeat offender) are goons and don't even belong in the league. They have intent to injure, and that's unacceptable. But you have to reel in the reckless behavior too. It gets the same result as the intent to injure and is just as disrespectful of the other players in the game.

Posted by: vahockeyfan | March 16, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

"They have intent to injure, and that's unacceptable"

---

It's obviously not unacceptable, because they didn't even get penalized for their hits, let alone suspended.

Which is the problem.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 16, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Duffman, for replying to vahockeyfan. What I find assinine about this is that you DO have goons on certain teams, some of which vahockeyfan listed, and their intent isn't to score goals. But constantly, their presence and their actions on the ice are waived to them "doing their job". Take Avery, for instance, for all the sh*t he gets away with, like what he was doing to Varlamov during the playoffs. Really, Campbell and Bettman? They didn't see that? That wasn't illegal? If safety and "respect" is what the players are supposed to be mindful, those goons wouldn't be in the league anymore. Ovechkin gets suspended because they know that would hurt him. Send the goons after him, Ovi can take. Take him away from the ice and the fans, you're pretty much kicking him in the gonads.

@ Pensfan: Boudreau is saying that if Cindy was the one that tapped Campbell and got a 2 game suspension, Canadia would have stopped everything and marched to the NHL offices with their pitchforks and torches, wearing their black and gold overalls, demanding the heads of Campbell and Bettman on spikes. If it were any other player, people would have said it was wrong. But because it's Ovi and the Capitals, the rest of the NHL deep down are breathing a sigh of relief, believing that this helps them in any way to knock down the Capitals from their quest for the Stanley Cup. Of course, as the rest of the team proved, it's not just Ovi who can score. S*ck it, Chicago, you guys still lost. As for the next two teams who think they got a chance, the Caps and their fans say bring it. Ovi, rest up, buddy. Panthers and Hurricanes? It's not personal. It's payback.

Goo, Caps!

Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | March 16, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Could it be any more obvious that Mariotti is nothing more than your typical casual sports fan (see: does not watch hockey) - and therefor only sees what ESPN deems "news worthy"?

No one can disagree that Ovi's hit was illegal. Most of the time, a hit like that deserves 2 minutes, sometimes 5 minutes, or the play will go unnoticed and result in a no call.
Compare these two hits and tell me what is different: http://dumpnchase.com/?p=33

The difference is the result of the hit. While Ovi was able to slowly get up and skate away, Campbell was not. The NHL is not supposed to make rulings based on the resulting injuries, but clearly it did in this case.

But Jay Mariotti knows nothing of this and neither do most people calling for Ovi's head. Ovi is a polarizing figure who is fun to love and equally fun to hate. Those of us who love him also love to WATCH him. Watch being the key word. Anyone who actually watches Ovi shift in and shift out knows the real Ovi (most of you reading this will agree that the real Ovi is far from the Ovi portrayed in Mariotti's article). Then there are those who love to hate Ovi, or any athlete for that matter. They watch what they want to watch then cry foul when an occasional example supports their uninformed opinion. It's blatant bias and it's bad journalism to the extreme.

Posted by: MillBurray | March 16, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Spot on.

Not giving Ovechkin the benefit of the doubt has been growing on the internet over the last two years. Every time he hits someone there is always a loud group labeling it dirty. That group has created a massive echo chamber on the internet that increasingly drowns out rational, measured discourse on Ovechkin. Just because something is repeated loudly and often doesn't make it true. Unfortunately, some media sites and their reporters take the time to cater to this group because it brings people to their sites. This is damaging to the readers and to the reputation of the media since objectivity, and quality journalism are sacrified.


Pensfan and vahockeyfan: I think Boudreau was trying to compare the Ovechkin and Crosby haters. If you listen to the most rabid segments on the internet you would think both these players were the worst men in the (hockey) universe. In the echo chamber the wrong (or slight infraction, or no wrong) these players do is blown out of proportion. With Ovechkin's latest hit, people are calling him a dirty goon who should be thrown out of the NHL. Bruce was saying that if Crosby had committed a similar hit, then the faction that hates him would also be calling for his head.

The echo chamber damages everyone's credibility especially those who participate in it, are influenced by it, and who do not combat it.

Posted by: pstenigma | March 16, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

**Breaking News**

Ovie just became a Canadian citizen and the suspension has been rescinded and will suit up to play tonight

Posted by: riceldi | March 16, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I thought Green wore the Affliction t-shirts and Ovie loves D&G?!? Either way, to all of those out there who wear Affliction t-shirts...you might as well be locked up! These people are writers? Where did they go to school, because I am sure any college would teach fact checking 101! Oh well, at least I got a good laugh out of it!

Posted by: NatyBG | March 16, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Ovechkin is targeted by the NHL because 1) he is a Russian, 2) he doesn't play for Pissburgh (like Cooke does)and 3) he had the audacity to upset the NHL's carefully crafted marketing plans by proving to be a much better, and more entertaining, player than Crosby.

Posted by: poguesmahone | March 16, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Mariotti enjoys getting high off of the smell of his own farts.

Mariotti is so offensively bombastic; it is the only way he can get people to read his inaccurate articles. He is just an online Olbermann/O'Reilly of the sports world. His latest article is just another masterpiece of drivel. I've got a handkerchief for him to ball up and shove into his loud mouth.

Posted by: MyPostIDisAfake | March 16, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Yep, there is a clear bias against Ovie simply because he isn't North American. The league doesn't like it and by extension, they don't like the Caps. The inconsistencies in meting out justice just shows how disrespectful they are of Ovie and the Caps organization.

And sure enough, I knew all this blogging and internet stuff was going to tarnish Ovie unfairly. You keep the steady drumbeat of a lie out there and eventually it becomes taken for granted that it must be true. Adn all these people who've never watched Ovie play, all they know is, "oh, isn't he that dirty cheap shot player?"

Posted by: mgoride | March 16, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

All of the comments on Marriotti's column are 100% "OV not a goon, Marriotti a moron"

Awesome. Go CAPS. HTimes in Clarendon dollar bottles for the game tonight. Wear your jersey

Posted by: COYNECMC | March 16, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Mariotti stills writes for someone? I thought he got canned by the sun-times

Posted by: _stevo | March 16, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I don't understand all these complaints.

First off, it's just a two-game suspension. For a team that basically has the number one seed for their conference wrapped up, that's not a big deal. So just take a deep breath and relax, you'll have a lot more to worry about when the playoffs start.

Secondly, for those of you who think there is an anti-Russian or European conspiracy, are you at all familiar with the Detroit Red Wings? They had a lot of Russians on their team when they won the Cup in the 90's and 00's. I don't recall any big conspiracy to keep them down. Besides, do you really think Bettman, et al, are really capable of pulling of a great conspiracy like this? He's not that competent.

Thirdly, am I reading Boudreau's comments correctly? He seems to be saying that since Ovechkin is so much fun to watch he should be above the rules and never be put in the penalty box, much less suspended for his actions.

Posted by: LionelMandrake | March 16, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Ah, Mariotti. Always a bastion of level-headedness and calm, rational discourse.

As soon as I saw Mariotti's name in the headline of this post, the image immediately came to mind of him flamboyantly finger-wagging on Around The Horn while calling Ovechkin a bully that needs to be suspended for the rest of the season to be made an example to the rest of the league.

Posted by: theamazingmouse | March 16, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Arguably the best player in the league is Russian. But who does the league decide to promote instead? Who's the face of the NHL that we constantly get rammed down our throats? It's easier to target a single player than it is an entire team.

And Bettman may be incompetent but he's not above deciding to pull the NHL out of the Olympics now that it's in Russia in 2014. Why the double standard? why weren't the rinks international size in Vancouver? Everyone else conforms to the international standard but Bettman et al convinced the IOC that it would cost too much to convert the NHL sized rink to international size?

Ok, maybe there's no conspiracy, but there sure seems to be some sort of bias.

Posted by: mgoride | March 16, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

As you say Ovechkin is "arguably" the best, so it's possible he's not the best. Though, I'd say everyone would agree he is one of the best. But Sid has been famous in Canada long before anyone knew of Ovechkin, and when you are selling a game to North Americans it does make sense to sell them on someone they already know and who speaks their language.

But if there is really some great pro-Canadian bias can someone explain two things to me:

1. Why wasn't Steve Downie punished for his play on Crosby? Seems to me if they really wanted to make special rules for Sid they would have taken some action against not only Downie, but against Cooke where a lack of a suspension sends the message that head shots are okay (at least for this season) even against star players and may make Crosby a victim of retaliation when the Bruins play the Penguins on Thursday.

2. Why is the NHL still in places like Phoenix and Nashville? Why did they stop Jim Balsillie and his make it six campaign to bring a failing team back to Canada (and yes I know the league also stopped him from buying the Pens when he wouldn't agree to a no-movement clause). If the NHL was so pro-Canada wouldn't the Coyotes be back in Winnipeg and the Predators be in Hamilton or Quebec City by now?

Posted by: LionelMandrake | March 16, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

I don't buy Coach Boudreau's logic. I know it hurts the game when Ovi is suspended. But that's no reason to avoid suspending him.

It hurts the game to see the league's superstar pushing a guy into the boards from behind.

It hurts the game when a player is injured by an unnecessary hit.

The league had to suspend Ovi. It also had to suspend many others, including Cooke. The injustice is not that Ovi was supsended, but rather that consistency continues to escape the NHL.

And Mariotti is a moron. Your response was spot-on, Dan, but I almost feel his column doesn't even deserve the benefit of a response.

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 16, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Pheh. I thought it made sense to give Ovie a post-Olympics rest anyway. Charge him up for games that count. Thanks Colin.

Posted by: DoorKnob1 | March 16, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

The Post employs some of the same ignorant and ridiculous writers that will write anything to get noticed.

Dan, don't you agree that Wilbon's piece calling Ovie out of control, and claiming that because he is white no one will come down on him is the same trash journalism that Mariotti writes?

Posted by: VarlyisNarly | March 16, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

@LionelMandrake, no BB wasn't saying that they shouldn't suspend Ovi because he's fun to watch. What he meant was that he didn't think Campbell would suspend Ovi just to do it because the media was after Campbell--because it would be hurting profits--but that he did it because he felt Ovi deserved it.

And to the other Pens fan, he meant that if Crosby had done the same thing, that the media (outside of Pittsburgh) would also want him suspended for a long time (like some of them wish Ovi was) BECAUSE they're the players with the spotlight on them.

Posted by: dfe1 | March 16, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Great article. I just wanted to write as a fan and a hockey parent to say I am VERY proud and feel VERY lucky to have the Caps organization as my home team. I think it is full of role models and Ovi is one of the best. To us he always plays with heart and focus and skill rivaled by virtually none in today's NHL. Also - Bruce, George, and Ted always seem honest, smart, and fair and ridiculously hard working.

Although I do love the fact the Caps are winning now - it really means almost nothing compared to the level of integrity the Caps play with. Thank you all.

Posted by: anai2 | March 17, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

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