Ovechkin on goals celebration: 'You have to show emotion if you're an emotional guy'

March, 24, 2009

The story is getting old, perhaps, but the throng in one of the NHL's biggest media centers would not let it go on this day. Not with the man himself here in Toronto.

But credit Alex Ovechkin. He didn't duck the media, or the questions, over his much-publicized "staged" 50th-goal celebration from last week. He answered every single question from a scrum four layers deep in the visitors' dressing room at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday morning, his 10-minute session seemingly satisfying the inquisitors.

"It's a big number, I think for everybody. If I get it, why [can't I] celebrate? If you win the lottery -- a million dollars -- you go to the bar and drink a lot," the Washington Capitals star said. "I scored 50 goals and I just celebrated."

Cha-ching! The money quote. Thank you, Alex.

Hey, give the guy credit, he's not happy he's been slammed so heavily for his 50th-goal routine, but he's trying to have fun with it.

His goal celebration antics came under scrutiny when my colleague from "Hockey Night in Canada," the legendary Don Cherry, criticized Ovechkin late last month for being a little over the top and disrespectful to the opposing team.

"He can say whatever he wants," Ovechkin said of Grapes. "I think fans love when something is going on around the league. His TV show is very popular I think and I like it."

"Coach's Corner" is by far the most watched hockey segment in the game. When Cherry speaks, people listen, whether they want to admit it or not. So when he first brought this up, it sent waves throughout the hockey world.

But that doesn't mean Ovechkin is going to apologize or curb his emotional goal celebrations.

"It's good for the league, it's good for our fans," Ovechkin said. "Some players are just like robots. They score goals and it's like, OK, no emotion, nothing. They basically go, 'OK.' You have to show emotion if you're an emotional guy. Show it. You don't have to think about it if somebody doesn't like it. I don't care about it if somebody [doesn't] like it. I play myself, I enjoy my life, I've enjoyed my whole career. If somebody [doesn't] like it, don't watch my game, don't watch what I'm doing on the ice."

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau thought it was ironic how angry some people were at the Russian-born Ovechkin for his show of emotion.

"As Canadians, we have a tendency to be real conservative," said Boudreau. "It was 25 years ago that we got mad at all the Russians because they never showed any emotion. Now, they show emotion and that they enjoy and love the game, and now we get mad at them again. I think it's great, whether it's players or teams and they win and they show they are excited; it's what coaches show when we show pump-up videos.

"Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it's about other teams celebrating to show how much fun you have when you win the Stanley Cup or when you do something great. So I don't want to take that away from anybody, especially Alex, because he's a special, special guy. He did something different and everyone sees something different as something wrong. I don't think it was necessarily that."

Still, Boudreau did have a talk with Ovechkin last Friday, the day after the "staged" celebration in Tampa.

"I wanted to talk to him [about] the perception of other people," said Boudreau. "He had no idea that people would be upset. So I just wanted to make him understand that sometimes other teams don't like that. He has all these celebrations that no team worries about. But when it was something out of the ordinary, somebody might get upset about it even though his thought process wasn't, 'I'm doing this to show you up.' It was, 'I'm doing this to celebrate my 50th goal.' I hope we put that to bed. There was no animosity toward anybody. It was just him being a really emotional, energetic young man."

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson was asked Tuesday why he thought the Ovechkin goal celebration has received so much attention and sparked so much debate.

"Because you guys have nothing better to talk about, to be perfectly honest," he told the Toronto media. "I haven't heard or seen on ESPN in the United States a big deal about this. It's up here. And I think Bruce Boudreau is right -- you've got to find something else to talk about."

But Tuesday, that's all the media wanted to talk about.

"I think everybody has spoken their piece on what he did in Tampa," said Wilson when pressed on the issue. "I think, in general, I don't think anybody wants to see orchestrated things in this league. If that's why people watch the NFL, I don't think people are really on to what the NFL is all about. You're not waiting to see what the celebration in the end zone is going to be. But seeing how exciting he is when he scores, I think we need more people like that. Just the exuberance. He looks like he loves what he's doing. I think that's very important and we need more players like that."

But Wilson drew the line at Terrell Owens-type antics.

"Well, I don't ever want to see a guy whip out a Sharpie, sign a stick and throw it in a crowd, or pick up the puck and do the same thing with it," said Wilson. "But getting in a big pile with all of your teammates, I think that's great. Skating down the ice and doing a pumpernickel or something like that, this stuff's been going on forever in the league since I can remember. Tiger Williams riding his stick ... I was thinking today, Mike Foligno doing the big jump in the air ... everybody is excited when they score. I think this has been blown way out of proportion. ...

"I think you just let it go when you score," Wilson added. "I don't see anything wrong with that. But again, not a planned, scripted, choreographed celebration, I don't think we need that. Personally, I think you're just pointing at yourself, 'Look at me, look at how great I am.' I don't think you need to do that."

Boudreau agreed, saying he'd be worried only if Ovechkin consistently went back to "staged" celebrations.

"If it was a continued thing, I would say yes," he said. "But it's a one-time incident. End of story. I would like to see him score another goal ... and soon. But I don't think he's going to be taking out a pen and writing on his stick and handing it over to Ron [Wilson] after he scores. It's the first time he ever did that, so I think we have to cut him a little slack."

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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