Absence Of Ovechkin, Crosby Taking Some Excitement Away From NHL All-Star Weekend
Sunday's NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa "has turned into the Missing Stars game, extracting some of the fun out of the showcase weekend," according to Dan Gelston of the AP. Injuries are the "main culprit for the All-Star withdrawals," though Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin "pulled out this week because the game fell during his league-issued three-game suspension." The league banked on Ovechkin and Penguins C Sidney Crosby "years ago to lead them into great popularity and higher TV ratings well into this decade." But for at least this season, All-Star Weekend "goes on without them." And without them, the league is hoping the lure of the tonight's All-Star Draft "is enough to attract some eyeballs to the product on a weekend without the NFL playoffs." Penguins C Evgeni Malkin and Red Wings C Pavel Datsyuk "might be the best players in the NHL." Yet, when they are picked during the draft, the casual fan "would be more apt to ask, 'Who?' instead of saying, 'Wow'" (AP, 1/26). YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote, "The reality is, the All-Star Game is less relevant and more of a pain for the players than it used to be. The Winter Classic is the bigger midseason event." The league "needs players who want to be there -- and the vast majority still do." If "skipping the All-Star Game becomes a bigger problem, the league will have to find another solution" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/25).
OVIE CATCHING HEAT: In DC, Tracee Hamilton writes Ovechkin is acting like a "petulant child" by skipping this weekend's activities. Hamilton: "If he hopes to teach the mean old NHL a lesson by skipping the all-star game, he's going to be disappointed" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/26). In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch writes, "Ovechkin's hissy fit by skipping out speaks volumes about his character" (OTTAWA SUN, 1/26). SI.com's Stu Hackel wrote of Ovechkin, "I keep getting the feeling that he's just a shooting star across our night sky, at first bright, but fleeting and getting dimmer all the time" (SI.com, 1/25). Blues C Andy McDonald yesterday tweeted, "Classless move by @Ovi8 'opting' out of NHL All-Star game." McDonald later said, "I think it's disappointing for the fans. The All-Star game is about the fans, a chance for them to see the league's best players showcase their skills. He's one of the premier players in the league. There will be a lot of disappointed fans not to see that at the All-Star game and the skills competition." He added, "It's just disappointing. You think about the number of kids that are Ovechkin fans, certainly those in Ontario who don't get to see him that much. Now just because he doesn't want to go or he's mad at the league ... it's disappointing. Other players feel the same way" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/26).
CALLING FOR A LINE CHANGE: In Toronto, Damien Cox writes for "about five years, the NHL had every reason to believe it was in possession of a dynamic marketing duo that would pack a global punch for the next decade or more." But heading into the first All-Star Weekend without both Crosby and Ovechkin, it is now "abundantly clear those days are gone." Cox: "The era of Sid the Kid vs. Alexander the Great is over, and right now the NHL has nothing -- or no one -- even remotely close to that pair of stars to build a new marketing strategy around." NBC still "wants desperately to market Ovechkin like he’s one of the sport’s marquee players, but his stats and the performance of his team under his leadership say otherwise." So the "process of reaching for new strategies and marketing initiatives that don't have to involve Crosby and Ovechkin has started in earnest" (TORONTO STAR, 1/26).