Funny how one of the most talked about and exciting moments of the NHL season so far has the hockey world divided.
Hockey fans loved Linus Omark’s spin-o-rama debut to clinch the Edmonton Oilers’ shootout victory Friday, while just about everyone inside the game were disgusted by it.
And there, in a nutshell, is a big part of why the NHL is still struggling to make inroads south of the border.
It’s too boring. Too vanilla. And those inside the game evidently want to keep it that way.
Oh sure ... hockey executives speak often of the importance of getting the fans closer to players and marketing their true personalities.
Yet, when an exciting young prospect like Omark lifts 17,000 people out of their seats with something never before seen in the NHL, talk amongst players immediately turns to the dressing room code of honour.
“Disrespectful — I’m sure the Tampa players were impressed and will remember,” said one of hockey’s smart fellas, Sharks GM Doug Wilson, facetiously.
They certainly will, which is what they were more than eager to point out after the game with a string of expletives aimed at the cocky young Swede, who had long ago made a splash with a YouTube shootout goal for the ages.
When told of the goal, Toronto Maple Leafs goalie J.S. Giguere shrugged.
“Entertaining, yes, for sure,” Giguere said. “But I’m pretty sure there are 19 guys in that (Oilers) locker-room who will make sure he never does it again.”
Fact is, they didn’t mind at all. Nor did 17,000 fans at Rexall Place who absolutely loved it, sending them home happy with a moment nobody in town will ever forget.
And in the entertainment business, what matters more than that? Given what the Oilers fans have gone through of late, surely they deserve moments like those.
Besides, the spin Omark pulled off just after he picked up the puck at centre ice had no impact on the play. It just spiced up the play — a goal.
Let’s not forget, the shootout was introduced to entertain fans.
Yet, in this league, players and management are so often focused on remaining bland and colourless.
Say something colourful or that draws attention to yourself in any way, and your name is mud in the dressing room — just ask P.K. Subban, who was benched in Montreal for … well … being himself.
Funny also that there was no outcry when guys like Jason Blake or Pierre-Marc Bouchard did their spin-o-ramas while crashing through the crease in shootout goals.
Is it because they’re veterans and the silly code dictates they’ve ‘earned’ that right?
Wasn’t there a day when a slapshot in shutouts was disrespectful, as Steven Stamkos attempted earlier in Friday’s shootout?
Tom Renney insisted Saturday not only is he and his team OK with what his young prospect did, but the coach actually picked Omark to shoot knowing he’d likely try some sort of razzle-dazzle.
“It’s in the game for a reason,” said Renney after the game of the entertainment value of the shootout. “If you don’t want to accept the way a puck crosses the goal-line or how a guy comes in, then deal with it.”
Interestingly, Renney was coach when Canada lost in the 1994 Olympic shootout to Peter Forsberg’s never-before-seen one-hander. Renney was also coach when New York Rangers defenceman Marek Malik pulled his between-the-legs shootout magic in Manhattan.
“This stuff is following me around,” Renney said.
Lucky him, as the game should be so lucky as to see more of what Omark pulled off Friday no matter how offensive his brethren believes it to be.
Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC’s The Hotstove on Hockey Night in Canada