WINNIPEG, Manitoba | Hockey fans in Winnipeg waited 15 years for the return of NHL hockey, and the noise inside MTS Center is often the result of that pent up frustration.
The crowd there has the reputation as one of the loudest in the league, something players enjoy, even with the intimidation factor.
“I’d much rather have the building loud and crazy like that than a morgue,” Washington Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman said. “I enjoy playing in these buildings. You’ve got to find a way to take that energy from the crowd and make it feel like they’re cheering for you.”
So that’s what Alex Ovechkin tried to do Friday night as Jets fans serenaded him with not just boos but “Ovi sucks” and “Crosby’s better” chants.
Ovechkin heard it loud and clear.
“It’s always nice when they talk about you and then get the chants. I love it,” the captain said. “It’s great for the league, it’s great for us.”
Debate about Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby has been cooled by the Caps star’s struggles in the past couple seasons and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ center’s inability to stay in the lineup because of post-concussion problems.
Reigniting it for one night as a way to taunt Ovechkin didn’t seem to bother him.
“Everybody thinks who’s better, who’s not,” he said. “For me, it’s nice atmosphere and I love that kind of stuff.”
Dale Hunter heard his fair share of boos and derisive chants during his playing career and even again Friday night during the Caps’ 3-2 loss when fans chanted “Hunter sucks.”
But he knew Ovechkin just got more fired up.
“Everybody’s going to raise their game when the crowd’s on you,” the coach said. “It’s playoff hockey and you expect it.”