Hockey Headlines

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Disobedience Is A Virtue

"Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion." - Oscar Wilde

The man on the left in the picture above is Oscar Wilde. Wilde was a self-described anarchist as he supported the socialism movement and was a proud Irish nationalist. Because of his inclination to be disobedient in life, he was seen as a revolutionist, and, as such, his works often displayed the socialist side of his views.

The man on the right in the picture above is Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin is an offensive dynamo for the Washington Capitals in the NHL, and is a proud Russian citizen.

The similarities between the two men are few and far between. Ovechkin is Russian; Wilde is Irish. Ovechkin plays a rugged, aggressive sport; Wilde denounced "manly" sports. Ovechkin dates gorgeous Russian women (from here); Wilde was thought to be bisexual at the best of times. Clearly, the differences outweigh the similarities.

However, their disobedience may overshadow the differences. According to ESPN's Scott Burnside and Pierre Lebrun, Ovechkin will suit up for Russia in the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia whether the NHL is involved or not. And apparently there is nothing the NHL can do about him going.

"Nobody can say to me you can't play for your country in the Olympic Games," Ovechkin told

While I'd like to believe that this is the case, Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals, may have something to say about. And so will GM George McPhee. And so will NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. And I'm betting that whoever is running the NHLPA at that time may also want to discuss it with him. Again, though, it appears none of those men will have any influence on his decision.

"I don't care," Ovechkin said firmly. "I'll go play in the Olympic Games for my country. If somebody says to me you can't play, see ya."

Ovechkin was the lead man in his negotiations with Ted Leonsis for his last contract, and I'm almost certain this point wasn't brought up when he scrawled his name on the $124 million, 13-year contract extension in January of 2008. While the final word will come from Mr. Leonsis and the NHL in regards to whether this violates his NHL contract they all parties signed in good faith - and I'm certain the NHL will say it does - it goes to show you that national pride is more important to Alexander Ovechkin than money is.

Isn't that the kind of refreshing attitude that professional sports seems to be missing more and more? Wouldn't you like someone to say "no thanks" to the money in order to do what they believe is right? When was the last time a player walked away from a truckload of money to represent his country because that's what he believes is more important?

If Ovechkin, who is truly one of the brightest stars in recent NHL history, has decided to go, how many other Russian stars will follow? Ovechkin is quite outspoken, so I don't think he is just blowing smoke here either. If Ovechkin's participation is almost guaranteed by his statements today, could we see players like Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar, Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk, and San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov simply up and leave when February 2014 rolls around?

"'Who can say you can't play for your country in the Olympic Games? I think it's ...'


"'It's not unfair, it's stupid,' he said. 'Somebody don't like it, see you next year.'"
Good on Ovechkin for doing what he believes is important to him. Far too often, players and management in the NHL abandon their basic principles because of money, and I'm glad that Ovechkin is standing up to management and saying "no". While he's no modern-day Norma Rae, playing for his country, in his view, is more important than a few NHL games in mid-February. And I commend him for his decision.

It makes you wonder who else may join this movement. And from what country. And what progress will be made through this disobedience.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


JeffB said...

The player who comes to mind who put country and principles ahead of wealth is Arturs Irbe, who left the Central Red Army club to go home to Riga and manned barricades against tanks when the Soviets invaded Latvia in the early 90's when the Baltic state tried to break away from the Soviet Union. Leaving the Red Army club meant not participating in many high profile events, where North American scouts would be present, for the Soviet National Team, comprised mainly of the Red Army club's players, at a time when the Russians were first coming over to North America.

Teebz said...

Good call, Jeff! I totally had forgotten about Irbe's decisions. Great example!

Dan said...

And Irbe is the Caps goalie coach now.

There's no WAY the NHL would let Crosby miss the Olympics in Canada. So how can they expect Ovie to miss the games in his home country, especially when he's a global ambassador for the Russian Games?