In praise of Alex Ovechkin’s rowdy Stanley Cup celebrations

Watch as Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin throws out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game against the San Francisco Giants.

If you can drink all forms of alcohol out of hockey’s Holy Grail, then does it fit to fill it full of water on a Washington Monday morning, and wash down an Advil out of the Stanley Cup?

And if we allow Alex Ovechkin that courtesy, can the metaphor extend to the indignant who have shared their outrage these past few days as Ovechkin and his Capital teammates have taken Big Stanley out on the town like an old college roommate?

So they’re havin’ a few. You try making it through two months of playoff hockey, with the constant, vice-like pressure and its accompanying abstinence, without releasing the steam valve upon its conclusion.

Swimming in the fountain? OK, that had a little bit of “Patrick Kane visits Madison, Wisc.,” to it. But so what? It was harmless, though admittedly a little crass.

Only a week ago, much of the hockey world decried the lack of personality on display from players at hockey’s marquee event. Players score hat tricks and give all the credit to teammates and coaches. Then the next day the ham-handed National Hockey League spares its stars the media attention and runs out a bunch of fourth-liners to the podium, while across the way LeBron James and Steph Curry speak twice a day to media for the duration of the NBA Final.

Now, thanks to social media, we get Ovechkin unplugged every day, and folks are complaining? We’ll riff off of an old Bryan Marchment line on this one: “Go watch tennis.”

The Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win, and that’s not just a hockey guy talking up his game. It is fact.

Hockey teams play five times the games and have 10 times the travel of a Super Bowl winner. The NBA is a physical place, but hard collisions are encouraged, not penalized in hockey. Baseball is gruelling, but sorry, it is nowhere close to as physically taxing as playoff hockey.

Hockey players are moving faster on skates than anyone on cleats or sneakers, so the contact is exponentially harder. And find me a comparable in any of those sports to shot blocking, in either volume or pain inflicted. It doesn’t exist.

So when it all ends, and a guy like Ovechkin takes the Cup to the people, how can we not smile?

I live in Edmonton, where the Stanley Cup spent some time in the ’80s. It swam in pools, went to clubs, annually visited Mark Messier’s hometown tavern — The Bruin Inn, in St. Albert, Alta., — and who knows what all was consumed out of that shiny bowl?

The difference? There was no social media when the Oilers, Islanders or Canadiens owned the big mug. No cell phones, no Instagram, and no place to post a sordid Kodak snapshot other than a newspaper.

Sure, Sidney Crosby never took the Cup on the same kind of drunken tours that Ovechkin led over the weekend. So what? Sid’s not Ovi, and if you’re just figuring that out now, well, you haven’t been paying very close attention.

How many people on a D.C patio this weekend looked up to see Ovechkin and his teammates walking by, singing “We Are The Champions!” and offering a chance to have a picture with the Stanley Cup?

What better way to give back in a town that, for 40 years, has seen its hockey team fall short? Not to mention its football, basketball and baseball teams.

So let’s make some comparisons again: Would the dainty, delicate World Series Trophy have survived a Friday night with Ovi and the boys? No chance.

Would you even bother to carry around the paperweights that are the NBA and NFL championship trophies, or would the basketball and football be rolling down the stadium stairs before the seventh-inning stretch at that Nationals game that Stanley watched this weekend?

If you can’t fill your trophy up with champagne and chug it out in celebration, it says here, you should go back to the hardware store and get a new one.

If you can drink out of it, and you’ve been waiting as long as Ovechkin and the Capitals to take that first sip, hell, take it out on the town and have as much fun with it as humanly possible.

They spent the past two months saying the right things. Give ‘em a break, folks, and let the boys cut loose for a few days.


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