Tag: controversy

Alex Ovechkin

Ovechkin on benching: “I was pissed off”


Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post’s Capitals Insider spoke with Alex Ovechkin and Bruce Boudreau today in the wake of last night’s highly-publicized benching. In case you missed it (I have no idea how, considering we’ve written about it roughly 32 times), Ovi was benched late in regulation of Washington’s 5-4 comeback victory over Anaheim.

Here are some of the more choice quotes procured by El-Bashir (all come courtesy his Twitter account, @TarikElBashir)

Ovi on the benching: “I was pissed off. Of course I want to be in that situation on the ice.”

Ovi on what he said on the bench (allegedly cursing out Boudreau): “It doesn’t matter who I said it to, and what I said. It looked funny on TV.”

Ovi on his reaction: “It was just a little bit frustrating because I’m a leader in the team and I want that kind of responsibility.”

Boudreau on the number of TV cameras at practice: “Jeez, I only benched him one shift.” (Turns out they were there to film an NBC promo.)

Boudreau on if he pulled Ovi aside: “No. There’s nothing to talk about. We all understood it from Day One. It’s [part of] the whole theme for the whole year. We sat Marcus [Johansson]. And Jeff Halpern. Alex Semin has missed time at certain times.”

El-Bashir also reported Boudreau didn’t hear what Ovechkin muttered on the bench last night. Well, Boudreau said he didn’t hear what Oveckin muttered but according to our in-house lipreading team, it rhymes with “pat puck.” (Watch it here.)

So that’s the latest from Capitals practice. We’ll continue to provide up-to-the-minute coverage of this situation as it’s really boosting our page views.

Why Alex Ovechkin’s benching will work in the long run

Bruce Boudreau, Alex Ovechkin

In this age of snap reactions and overreactions, seeing the visceral reaction to what happened with Alex Ovechkin and Bruce Boudreau last night coming from both sides of the fence isn’t stunning. Did Ovechkin cuss out Boudreau? Yeah, he probably did.

After all, when you’re the team’s biggest player and the guy they’ve counted on for years to be “the man” and you’re benched, how would you take it? I know I would’ve been just as angry if not more so.

While it’s fun to speculate about there being player-coach problems and how this could lead to a drama bomb going off in the Caps locker room, the truth here is that this is the kick in the pants that Boudreau felt Ovechkin needed to get the best out of him the rest of the season.

Think about how Ovechkin looks when we see him at his best. He skates with the kind of intensity you rarely see out of anyone in the NHL. He’s a beast on skates playing with the purpose to punish opponents with his powerful goals and physical play.

Last night, we saw neither of those things from Ovechkin. You saw Ovi the dangler, Ovi the passive player, and Ovi the guy on the bench.

We’ll see the Ovechkin of old come back, sooner than later probably, because he’s got pride in how he plays the game. Getting personally embarrassed like that on national television in a game that saw his teammates win without him, we’ll see Ovi the opponents’ nightmare back sooner than you think.

Here are NHL on NBC analysts Mike Keenan and Jeremy Roenick discussing the benching:

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This Raffi Torres costume controversy doesn’t appear to be going away

Raffi Torres and wife as Jay Z and Beyonce

By now you’ve all seen the picture of Phoenix Coyotes LW Raffi Torres and wife Gianna dressed up for Halloween as Jay-Z and Beyonce. The photo was taken at a team party and shared publicly by Coyotes teammate Paul Bissonnette, whose nickname has reportedly gone from “BizNasty” to “BizEnoughWithTheBloodyCameraPhone.”

What started as a seemingly innocuous Twitpic has turned into a pretty massive controversy. Nearly every major media outlet is running with the story; the sheer volume of scrutiny forced the Coyotes organization to issue a public statement denouncing negative reaction to the costume.

(And in a perfect moment of irony, check out this screencap from the front page of the Coyotes website.)


Here are some of the more choice criticisms of Torres’s costume from around the interweb:

Sporting News: “Regardless of how big a Jay-Z fan Torres is, blackface is virtually taboo because of its use in the construction of damaging stereotypes; typically, a white performer would darken his or her face and portray racist characters. The practice was accepted throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries.”

Global TV: “When the Phoenix Coyotes sent out the invites to their annual Hallowe’en party, which took place Sunday night, one imagines they forgot to include a warning asking players not to dress in blackface.”

Bomani Jones: “Seriously, what’s the character here? He’s in a t-shirt and sneakers. The joke is the makeup. And that’s the problem.”

Chris Yuscavage, Complex.com: “White people dressing up in blackface for Halloween as their favorite rappers is always an uncomfortable thing. But it’s even more uncomfortable when professional athletes do it because, well, they’re professional athletes. They should know that them painting their faces black is going to cause some level of controversy. Yet, Raffi Torres of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes took it upon himself to do it anyway.”

Sportsgrid.com: “Predictably, many were up in arms, and Bissonnette responded to those criticisms by noting that Torres is actually a big fan of Jay-Z. We don’t doubt he is. But that’s the thing with blackface: there’s a history there, and no matter how benign intentions may be, it’s hard to see blackface and not think of…that. And yes, there have been instances of blackface in popular culture actually working, but there’s a difference between a movie where the blackface can actually be used as part of a larger point, and…some guy’s costume.”

The only thing saving Torres right now is the Kim Kardashian-Kris Humphries divorce. He was one of Twitter’s top trending terms until those two ended their seemingly unbreakable union, forcing the Internet to redirect its collective vitriol.

Retirements of Paul Kariya and Dave Scatchard send clear message to NHL about concussions

Ben Walter, Dave Scatchard

The message has been out there all along for the NHL when it comes to concussions: Do something smart about it or start losing players sooner than not.

Seeing the retirements of Paul Kariya and now Dave Scatchard this summer that message was not-so delicately hammered home as red flags for the league. The NHL is figuring out a way to find the balance between maintaining the speed and beauty of the game while trying to keep the potentially ugly parts of it under some kind of control.

In Scatchard’s case, his history of dealing with concussions forced him out of the game and it’s affecting how he lives his life off the ice. While Scatchard announced his retirement via Twitter, he made it clear that he had to hang it up because doctors at the Mayo Clinic advised against him playing hockey again. For Scatchard, when there are basic things you can no longer do, that’s a big problem as Randy Starkman of The Toronto Star reports.

“Even today I have trouble pushing my kids on a swing set,” said Scatchard from his home in Phoenix. “Just the motion makes me really nauseous. Wrestling around with them on the ground, I can only do it for a minute or two and then I just feel sick. Any rolling motions or spinning motions just completely send me for a loop.”

Scatchard’s career came to an end during an AHL game thanks to a late hit. Paul Kariya saw a host of different hits conspire to end his career, some which were “legal” at the time and others that weren’t legal ever. Kariya’s farewell to the league was less of a sad thing because a once brilliant player was hanging it up, but more of a bitter situation because it all stopped too soon. As Kariya told The Globe & Mail’s Eric Duhatschek at the time, the league has to serve notice to those who are going out of their way to hit their fellow man in the head.

Kariya went on to say that every hit that ever knocked him out came as a result of an illegal hit.

“Every single one,” he reiterated. “I’m not saying you’re going to ever eliminate concussions completely because it’s a contact sport, but if you get those out of the game, then you eliminate a big part of the problem.

“A two-game suspension? That’s not enough of a deterrent.”

And you know what? Kariya is right. While fans are twisted up wondering when (or if) Sidney Crosby is going to play this season, and after two weeks in a row of Penguins executives and Crosby’s agent tip-toeing around how Crosby’s actually doing there’s something amiss, the first thing the league has to do is start coming down hard on those who go out of their way to target the head.

This is one thing the new disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan is going to have to nip in the bud and fast. Colin Campbell’s clandestine ways of determining what was a “legal” blow and what wasn’t set a dangerous and awful precedent that Shanahan needs to not follow along with. With Shanahan being a guy who has played in the current style of the NHL he should be more than aware who the bad seeds are and how fast things can go wrong. Let’s hope that he can lead the charge to helping clean up a beautiful game whose warts are showing when it comes to protecting its players.

North Dakota expected to finally give up the fight, retire Fighting Sioux nickname

North Dakota Fighting Sioux

After a contentious battle, it appears that the University of North Dakota is going to give up their fight to keep the Fighting Sioux nickname.

For years, the school has adopted the Native American name and look to their athletic team logos but now after pressure from the NCAA and a lack of support from one of two Lakota Indian tribes, the school is expected to retire the “Fighting Sioux” name and imagery from being associated with their athletic teams.

The nickname over recent years was found to be “hostile and abusive” towards Native Americans and the NCAA flexed their muscle on UND to get the name changed by threatening sanctions on their athletic teams if they persisted in fighting the change. Banning them from postseason play in sports such as football and hockey were threatened and with the UND hockey program being as big and popular as it is, these threats were taken seriously.

After meetings between NCAA officials and North Dakota representatives including state governor Jack Dalrymple, the NCAA feels confident that their wishes will be met.

“It’s our understanding coming out of this meeting that the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo will be dropped,” said NCAA VP for communications Bob Williams in the article. “The contingent from North Dakota made it clear that they were committed to changing the legislative action that would require retention of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. However, our settlement agreement remains in effect and as a result, the University of North Dakota will be subject to the policy effective Aug. 15.”

While the North Dakota legislature tried their best to fight the efforts made by the state board of education and the wishes of the NCAA by passing a law making a change to the nickname only possible through the state government, it’ll take an action by the governor to transfer that power back to the board of education and hope that the legislature approves it to allow the retirement to happen. While there could be more holdups by the government here, it’s clear that the fight to keep a nickname and appearance that the NCAA finds to be abusive has grown tired.

The tricky part of all this is how the school will handle obscuring and covering up the many Fighting Sioux logos throughout Ralph Englestad Arena where the hockey team plays.  When Engelstad gave his money to the university to have the arena built, he demanded that there be as many Sioux logos as possible carved throughout the building knowing full well that one day the NCAA would come calling for the name. That part of the issue is still under discussion as Chuck Haga of the Grand Forks Herald discusses.

Dalrymple said the NCAA leaders also agreed that the transitioning of Ralph Engelstad Arena regarding logos and insignia will be negotiated by Stenehjem and the NCAA.

Williams confirmed that the two side “agreed to have a discussion regarding that timeline,” but he said provisions in the 2007 settlement agreement concerning what must be removed and when “remains in effect.”

Hodgson did not speak with reporters as he left the meeting. In the past he has been adamant about not stripping logos and other Sioux-related items from the privately owned arena.

This issue is just another awkward one when it comes to the entire situation. While UND has never been one to have offensive mascots (hello Washington Redskins) or crowd chants (like the Atlanta Braves) and the Fighting Sioux name was always treated with respect, they never got approval from the Standing Rock Tribe to use the name. Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Tribes were the two Native American tribes the university needed to get approval from to use the Fighting Sioux nickname and while Spirit Lake passed a referendum of their own, Standing Rock refused to vote on it.

As Haga’s piece discussed, some Native American students felt offended by the name and joined in a lawsuit against the school to get them to drop it.

The students named in the lawsuit include Lakota (Sioux) people and members of other tribes in and outside North Dakota, who have said they all suffer discrimination or discomfort because of the nickname.

All allege that the nickname has had “a profoundly negative impact” on their self-image and psychological health, and the long-running and often bitter fight has denied them “an equal educational experience and environment,” according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

With these kinds of complaints as well as the possibility that some athletic conferences would refuse to allow admittance to North Dakota because of the nickname problem, UND’s hand was essentially forced by those opposed to it. Is this the right move to make to respect a group of people or is this political correctness run amok yet again? After all, other universities still have Native American nicknames and aren’t being forced to change them (University of Illinois, Florida State University for example). For the Fighting Sioux and their hockey team, getting a new look and a new name will make the future a strange one.