Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin is being suspended by the NHL for one game for what amounts to being really smart.
At the wise old hockey age of 33, Ovechkin is skipping a meaningless exhibition – the league’s All-Star Game – to save himself for the rest of the season and presumably the playoffs, where the Capitals will be trying to win a second consecutive Stanley Cup.
Ovechkin should be hailed for this decision, not punished for it. He’s missing the pomp and circumstance of the All-Star Game to help ensure his availability for the most important portion of the NHL season, the playoffs. If college football stars not playing in bowl games, which still count towards a team’s record, has become acceptable, then a player like Ovechkin reasonably missing an exhibition game so he can be available to his team for the rest of the season should be too.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works in the NHL. Because Ovechkin wants to take the All-Star break off to rest for the stretch run, a 10-year-old NHL rule requires him to miss one game either immediately before or after the Jan. 26 All-Star Game in San Jose. Washington plays in Toronto before the break and hosts Calgary after it.
How in the world does it help the NHL to keep Ovechkin out of a regular-season game, where he is at his best and most interesting? The answer is that it doesn’t, not one bit.