Backlash, what backlash? When announcing that Alex Ovechkin would be withdrawing from NHL All-Star Weekend while suspended, Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee was unconcerned with negative reaction.
“Well, I just don’t think it’s in his heart to play and I don’t think that’s the right way to play the game. And I don’t think there’s going to be a backlash,” McPhee said Tuesday. “He really doesn’t want to be a distraction up there, either. You know what the questions are all going to be. And so it’s a great event and he doesn’t want to [be] a distraction and we don’t want it, either.”
There’s certainly no backlash coming from the league, which would love to have him there but will not discipline him for pulling out, according to TSN.
But at least one player opposes Ovechkin’s decision, Andy McDonald of the St. Louis Blues. McDonald posted on Twitter: “classless move by @ovi8 “opting” out of NHL Allstar Game.” Chris Johnston of the Canadian Press then tweeted that “Andy’s not the only player who feels this way.”
Former player Jeremy Roenick criticized Ovechkin on his NHL.com blog.
“He says since he’s suspended he shouldn’t go to the All-Star Game, but to me that is a cop-out,” Roenick wrote. “I understand he’s mad at the NHL for his suspension, but this is not the proper way to deal with it. …
“Listen, I am a big Ovechkin fan. I have been since Day 1. But it doesn’t matter that I’m a fan of his because I am disappointed with the way he has treated this situation. There has to be a little more loyalty to a League that has enabled you to make over $100 million.”
Ovechkin talked about loving the game and the event when he was named to the team. Even though he made vacation plans, one of the faces of the NHL said he needed to go.
“In the back of my head, I always think if I can go there, I have to go because it’s big opportunity for me to be there,” Ovechkin said Jan. 13. “It’s nice when the league and people wants to see you out there.”
On Jan. 24, the day after he was suspended three games for a hit on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek, Ovechkin said: “My heart is not there. I suspended, so why I have to go there?”