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Players react to Ovechkin's 50th goal celebration

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TSN.ca Staff
3/21/2009 6:34:31 PM
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The anticipation that surrounded Alexander Ovechkin's 50th goal of the season quickly turned into controversy Thursday night only moments after the league's top sniper reached the elusive mark.

The Capitals star, who became Washington's first three-time 50-goal scorer, ignited an instant debate with his pre-planned, post-goal celebration, in which he stopped behind the net, put his stick on the ice, and pretended to warm his hands over it.

This isn't the first time the National Hockey League has bared witness to an orchestrated performance. Both Jaromir Jagr and Teemu Selanne, two of the most prolific scorers in recent history have taken liberties after putting the puck in the net, something they did often.

"He told me he was going to do it," said teammate Mike Green after the game. "He wanted me to join in, but there was no way I'd join in on that. I just kind of stood back and let him do what he does."

Ovechkin reached the 50-goal plateau when he took a pass from centre Nicklas Backstrom and carried the puck up the right side. Ovechkin deked Matt Pettinger out of position and snapped a wrist shot from the right circle past Tampa Bay's rookie goalie Mike McKenna.

On Friday, opinions from around the league filtered in. Ovechkin has been called many things early in his NHL career, but while some enjoy his innocent love of the game, others are worried he is hurting its integrity.

"He's just trying to have fun," said Senators' forward Jason Spezza. "I'm sure if you're the other team you don't like it but he's just having fun and things are going well for him right now. He's on top of the world."

Spezza's teammate Nick Foligno learned the art of the celebration from his father Mike, who played 15 seasons in the NHL, and leaped off the ice and into the air with both skates after every goal. To honour his dad, Nick copied the move after his first NHL goal.

"Honestly, I don't think it's that big a deal," Foligno commented. "There's obviously certain instances you don't try to embarrass the other team but if you're excited and you worked hard to get that goal, I think you should show some excitement and do whatever comes to you at the time. Obviously, my dad did the jump and I think maybe the game has changed a little bit, but still I think it's nice to see a guy show emotion when he scores."

Blues forward Brad Boyes also felt that the celebration was fitting.

''It is hot,'' Boyes said of Ovechkin's hockey stick. ''Give him credit; he's done it three years in a row. I think it's pretty funny."

A pair of Vancouver Cauncks were split on the antics.

"I loved it actually, I thought it was great," said Willie Mitchell. "I thought it was good for our game and you know if it was Willie Mitchell scoring his fourth or fifth of the season and throwing his stick down on the ice and doing that I don't think that's right but he is a personality, he's exciting, he's fun to watch."

While Mitchell thought it was fun, Shane O'Brien took a different view.

"I wasn't a real big fan of it, if I would have been on the ice I might have gone over and maybe tried to stop him from doing it," said O'Brien. "I'll never come close to scoring 50 goals so I'll never have to worry about what my celebration would be like.

"Maybe I'm a little old school, but if you score 50 you're a great player and everyone knows you are a great player, everyone knows how good you are, you don't have to go and rub it in someone's face."

Lightning forward Ryan Malone, who was on the losing end of the 5-2 result against Ovechkin's Capitals, was also upset.

"I was in the [penalty] box at the time, but you remember something like that and make sure he pays the right way," Malone told the Tampa Tribune. "He's going to do what he's going to do and it's up to us to react the way we should."

Blues forward Dan Hinote also said that celebrations like Ovechkin do nothing but show up the opposing team.

''I'm not a huge fan of celebrations,'' Hinote said. ''There's a time and place for it and in hockey, you usually end up paying a price if you do that.''

There is little doubt that Ovechkin has been on fire himself, with 93 points on the season, and he is poised to join the century club for the third time in four NHL seasons.

Having amassed 213 goals in 315 career regular-season games, Alexander the Great is blazing a trail through the league, and for better or worse he is drawing eyes to the world of hockey, both in Canada and from the nation's capital south of the border.

Alexander Ovechkin (Photo: Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
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