Tag Archives: Zdeno Chara

NHL: If you can play, you can play!

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Over the past couple decades, lockouts have given the NHL’s management and leadership a terrible reputation in the eyes of their fans. Well, they finally did something right. Yesterday, the NHL became the first North American sports league to officially partner with the You Can Play Project, a movement dedicated to the eradication of homophobia in sports. 

In fact, since its launch, the You Can Play Project has been publicly backed by numerous NHL players, including stars Henrik Lundqvist, Claude Giroux, Rick Nash, Zdeno Chara, and Daniel Alfredsson. To me, this is a no-brainer for all sports leagues, but especially for the NHL.

One of You Can Play’s founders, Patrick Burke, the son of hockey management legend Brian Burke, started the project last year in memory of his brother Brendan. In 2009, Brendan, who was the student manager of Miami of Ohio men’s hockey program, publicly came out of the closet with the unwavering support of the RedHawks team.

Brendan told the Toronto Sports Network, “I think it’s important my story is told to people because there are a lot of gay athletes out there and gay people working in pro sports that deserve to know there are safe environments where people are supportive regardless of your sexual orientation.”

It’s nice to know that the hockey will be on the right side of history. I’d like to also point out that Major League Soccer publicly supported the movement this past fall. I hope more leagues follow suit. 

Simply stated, barriers do not belong in the sporting world. Participating in sports provided me with countless friendships, priceless memories, and personal development. Everyone should have access to those great experiences.

If you can play, you’re welcome to play. 

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Lunch: Alex Ovechkin Drops the Gloves with Mike Milbury

Ovechkin led the Capitals to a dominant victory over the Panthers on 3/7/13.(Alex Brandon / AP)

Ovi leads the Capitals to victory over the Panthers.
(Alex Brandon / AP)

Mike Milbury, NBC’s hockey analyst, has been one of superstar Alexander Ovechkin’s toughest critics since the Russian entered the National Hockey League.

If you are unfamiliar with Milbury, I’ll give you a brief recap of his involvement with the NHL. The most memorable act of his playing career came in 1979, when he climbed into the stands at Madison Square Garden, removed a Rangers’ fan shoe, and slapped him in the face with it. I’m not joking. Here it is:

And I’m almost positive that he was inspired by the 1977 film, Slapshot. If you haven’t seen this cult-classic, grab yourself a sixer of Molson and enjoy.

Milbury eventually found himself managing the New York Islanders in the late ’90s. During his brief stint as the GM, he traded away Zdeno Chara, Roberto Luongo, Todd Bertuzzi, Ziggy Palffy, and Olli Jokinen, as well as numerous other players who went on to have long NHL careers. In addition to trading away that loaded pool of talent, he also signed Rick DiPietro and Alexei Yashin to 2 of the worst contracts in hockey history. To this day, Islanders’ fans still blame Milbury for robbing them of their superstar prospects and financially crippling the franchise.

Somehow (maybe he called Matt Millen for advice?), Milbury wound up as the “hockey expert” at NBC Sports. Now, it seems like his favorite thing to do is compete with Don Cherry, his former coach, for the title of the most embarrassing TV personality in hockey.

Just last Wednesday, after Ovechkin had a particularly weak performance, Milbury went after the Russian with petty insults and a brutal attack upon his character.

I’ll admit that Ovi underperformed. Hockey is a brutal, emotional sport. Milbury should know from experience that it is nearly impossible to be on your game every night of year. Much like Ovi’s play, Milbury’s rant was inexcusable.

It took about a week for Ovechkin to respond to Milbury’s comments, but he eventually fired back:

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Last night, Ovi also responded on the ice, picking up a goal and 2 assists as the Washington Capitals routed the Florida Panthers 7-1. With the Caps sitting at 12th place in the East, Ovechkin must continue to elevate his play if they have any hope of making the playoffs.

This weekend will be a big test for the team. After a game against the Islanders on Saturday, the Capitals and New York Rangers play in NBC’s game of the week on Sunday at 12:30.

I think for the first time ever, I am eagerly waiting to hear what Mike Milbury has to say.