Alex Ovechkin watched the final minute of regulation time from the bench during Tuesday’s eventual 5-4 Washington Capitals overtime victory over the Anaheim Ducks.
The fact that Ovie wasn’t on the ice for the final shift when Washington was down a goal would have been enough to merit the attention of the national media. But it was the reaction of The Great Eight that grabbed the headlines.
Ovechkin was caught on camera cursing and looking a little more than frustrated by coach Bruce Boudreau’s decision to leave him on the bench for the game’s pivotal moment.
Ovie’s reaction earned him a reputation as a player with an ego, something that isn’t usually associated with the NHL. Whereas NFL or NBA players can sometimes be called divas by the media, NHL players tend to put the team first.
Despite that general consensus among NHLers, there are a few players who need to check their egos when it comes to playing the game.
The names on the following list are there for a reason, albeit a different reason from the one that landed Ovechkin here. These players need to subjugate their egos not because they believe themselves to be better than the team, but because they should do so out of necessity.
The former star netminder for the San Jose Sharks told the New York Islanders that he’d rather go to Russia than play for them last season.
Granted, it was the freaking Islanders that claimed him off waivers (so I can see his point), but it was a display of self-centered behavior rarely seen in the NHL.
This season, Nabokov has agreed to honor the terms of the waiver claim put in by the Islanders; it’s a step in the right direction for the veteran goalie. Now he’ll really have to set aside his ego if he wants to make a positive impact on the ice.
Relegated to the role of third-string goaltender on this year’s Islanders team, Nabokov will have to show that he’s a changed man. By putting the needs of the team first and playing well when he’s called upon, he’ll accomplish that.
It’s no secret that Jaromir Jagr is no longer the perennial NHL All-Star he was in the mid-90s.
If he’s going to make his NHL comeback in good form, he’ll have to set aside the part of his brain that might be telling him he’s still the best player on the ice.
Jagr isn’t the top scoring threat on a Philadelphia Flyers team with players like James van Riemsdyk, Claude Giroux and Danny Briere on it. That’s not to say that he can’t help this team win though.
By putting the team first and taking on a lesser role, Jagr can effectively manage his ego and contribute to the offensive production of the Flyers.
Manny Malhotra is lucky to be playing hockey. And that’s putting it lightly.
After suffering a horrific eye injury during a game last season, there were doubts as to whether or not Malhotra would even regain his eyesight. The fact that he’s recovered to the point that he can play in the NHL again is nothing short of miraculous.
He’ll have more than nervousness to battle when he’s on the ice this season.
Malhotra’s ego will have to take a backseat as he works his way into the grind that is the NHL season. No longer can he consider himself at 100 percent since he’s still damaged goods.
He’ll need to check his ego at the rink door in order to ease his way back into the game.
New York Rangers center Sean Avery’s ego is so big, it has its own hockey bag; even that might be understating the issue.
Avery belongs on this list solely because of his belief that he’s the most obnoxious player on the ice at any given time. It may be true, but that doesn’t mean Avery isn’t egotistical.
Maybe his inordinate sense of self-worth stems from the fact that he has a rule in the NHL rulebook with his name on it. Then again, it might just be because he truly believes himself to be that important to his team.
If he can control his ego, he’ll be less of a headache to opposing defensemen, goalies and possibly his own head coach; if you’re a Rangers fan though, you don’t want him to do anything like that. After all, Avery’s ego is his trademark.
It’s the old “hate-him-unless-he’s-on-your-team” philosophy. Nobody embodies that better than Sean Avery.
Most NHL teams would be happy to have Tuukka Rask as their starting goaltender. Unfortunately for him, Boston is not one of those teams.
The Bruins’ goalie can often be found on the bench as starter Tim Thomas—of 2011 Vezina Trophy fame—gets the majority of the reps between the pipes.
Rask almost certainly struggles with frustration on a nightly basis; he’s good enough to start for many other NHL teams but he doesn’t get the attention he deserves because he’s a backup goalie in Boston.
He probably already does this, but Rask will have to check his ego when he arrives at the rink on game nights. If he doesn’t, the pressure of “what if” might be his undoing as he wonders what he could accomplish as a starter elsewhere.
When his contract overshadows his play on the ice, it’s never a good sign for an NHL player. Ilya Kovalchuk might have an idea what that’s like.
Kovalchuk recently made headlines for forcing his way out of Atlanta and signing a $102 million contract with the New Jersey Devils. Initially, the deal was so back-loaded that the NHL forced the Devils to restructure it.
Not exactly the kind of first impression Kovalchuk likely wanted to make with his new teammates. You know, unless he really is that self-centered.
The pressures that come with signing a huge contract have been well-documented, and Kovalchuk knows them all too well. Now that he’s got his money, he’ll have to put his ego aside and play up to the terms of his deal.
Otherwise, his stay in New Jersey might feel longer than the 15 years he signed up for.
Let me be clear: Sidney Crosby has never been accused of having a big ego or of being unmanageable. The reason he’s on this list is because of his struggle to return to the ice after sustaining a concussion during last season’s Winter Classic.
Don't worry, I'll explain.
Much like Manny Malhotra’s situation in Vancouver, when Crosby returns for the Pittsburgh Penguins he’ll have to contend with the possibility that he might not be the game’s best player anymore.
An NHL player has to have a certain amount of confidence (read: big ego) in order to succeed in the world’s premier professional hockey league. Crosby is facing an uncertain future as he slowly increases his workload in preparation for his comeback.
Part of that workload must include managing the ego that has brought him to this point at such a young age.
Crosby will need to subjugate his ego to a certain extent in order to return to the NHL at full strength, even if it means that he won’t be able to regain maximum effectiveness once he’s back.
After all, Crosby at 90 percent is still better than most NHL players at 100 percent.