Nothing makes me shudder more than poor sportsmanship, especially when it’s being displayed in the last noble game left in professional sports-ice hockey.
Whether it’s Sean Avery and his childlike antics, Tomas Holmstrom and his deliberate elbow to a seriously wounded James Wisniewski in Game four of the Western Conference semis, or Alex Ovechkin’s knee on knee hits and catalogue of flamboyantly over the top displays; it all makes me ill.
Whenever I watch today's NHL I always find myself asking; What in hockey god’s name is going on? and, is this what’s become of sportsmanship?
Just think back a few years to when men like Steve Yzerman, and Joe Sakic took the ice.
Did they ever comport themselves even remotely similar to today’s players? Did they dance around like prima-donnas when reaching personal milestones? Did they ramble on ad nauseum about their abilities before even winning their first cup? Did they play dress up and play up to the camera at the All Star game?
Recall Scott Stevens. Although there are a great deal of you who thought the hall of famer was a dirty player, ask yourself if he ever gloated after knocking anyone unconscious?
He single-handedly took players out who threatened his teams success, yet he went about his business with the professionalism of a KGB assassin. He was never arrogant despite capturing three cups in nine years.
Guys like Dave Andreychuk, Doug Gilmour, Steve Thomas; lesser known players in comparison shared a respect for themselves, their fellow competitors and more importantly the game.
Now imagine how Ovechkin would comport himself if he ever landed a clean hit, knocking a player unconscious; one where a shoulder, not a knee is utilized as the weapon. I’m guessing he’d dance about the ice in a similar fashion to a school girl who’d just sold her first bag of girl scout cookies. Maybe warm his hands over the body of his incapacitated opponent.
And then there’s Sidney Crosby.
While I love the effort and would welcome the fella on my team, any day of the week, he needs to learn thing or two about sportsmanship. He whines, dives, plays dead and hams it up to the media anytime he sees an opportunity to influence the refs.
Then there’s "Geno" Malkin. Has the guy even heard of passing? Maybe he’s just forgotten how to make them, since the semis commenced.
His display in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semis was inspiring to say the least, but playing up to mom and dad, by taking it on oneself to single-handedly win a contest was extremely selfish and quite the risky endeavour.
Then there's the Holmstrom elbow on an injured Wisniewski. Callously elbowing a guy bent over and coughing up blood, then blatantly denying it was intentional is as 'gutless' as the victim referred to it as.
But none of these guys have anything on Sean Avery, or as he's referred to in my household, Calvin Klein on skates. His constant game playing, headshots as well as wanton abuse and disrespect of NHL goalies is shocking to say the least.
His rag doll display against David Clarkson of the Devil’s was one of the most embarrassing I’ve ever witnessed. Ask yourself if the diminutive P.J. Stock would have ragdolled like that.
Yet Avery is a star; and the NBC game of the week poster boy. Avery's done nothing on a professional level yet still he’s one of the most recognizable faces and names in the league. And this is by design; his own and that of the leagues.
No one gives a hoot about Ilya Kovalchuk or Zach Parise, guys that exhibit many of the qualities of their predecessors, yet we’re bombarded with feature after feature on Avery and his interest in women’s handbags. I even felt I needed to mention Avery's name in my title just to get a few readers.
This is not what we expected from yesteryears players, or the players typical of the pre-Gary Bettman NHL (coming up pre-Bettman). With the exception of a few of today’s stars, the poster boys of the 2009 NHL are a far cry from the guys I grew up playing with, and the men I grew up watching.
Even the league's goons and hoodlums have seemingly lost respect for themselves, their opponents and the game.
But then again maybe I’m just being nostalgic. It’s possible that I’m ignoring the fact that players from my day were just as pathetic. Gretzky cried with the best of them, Lindros hid behind his mum and dad's skirt, Theo Fleury danced round like a girl scout and Messier; well, he was a girl scout.
note: Although Joe Sakic has not yet formally retired he's still from the last generation of players.