"The most sobering part of Wednesday night’s Rangers-Capitals game had nothing to do with the game — a 5-4 overtime victory by Washington, which was wildly entertaining unless you are a big fan of goalies — but the lack of people watching in Washington’s Verizon Center.
"The team announced the attendance at 12,553, which is laughable. There were entire empty sections. Any camera shot that caught the sections behind the nets showed swaths of empty seats. The team handed out bright red mullet wigs to fans in honor of ’80s night and I am guessing they have plenty left in backstage cartons.
"This is sad (the attendance, not the wigs) because Washington has one of the jewels of the N.H.L. in forward Alex Ovechkin, who is worth the price of admission alone. He scores. He skates like crazy. He lays checks on people like Rangers enforcer Colton Orr. He has 22 goals this season and is mesmerizing any time he is on the ice.
"Yes, the Capitals had a horrible start and axed their coach, Glen Hanlon. But they have rebounded, won four of their last five and have a terribly fun team to watch. In the N.H.L., this is unusual. Highly unusual. Perhaps Washington fans will figure that out this season."
It's past time to just say this..."sports fans" in Washington are squandering one of the great, and fleeting opportunities that come around rarely in sports -- the opportunity to see a legendary individual performer in the making just as his career is taking off.
Alexander Ovechkin is underrated by the NHL, to be sure (certainly with respect to coverage compared to one of the youngsters in Pittsburgh). But one could plausibly make the case that Washington has not seen this level of talent in his sport in the last half century of professional sports in this city. Our apologies to fans of the Wizards' Gilbert Arenas, but while he is a superb player and an engaging personality, he is not in the class of Alexander Ovechkin when it comes to dominating his peers. This year, his peer group is more or less Sidney Crosby and...well, that's it. And Ovechkin has something for everyone -- supreme open-ice skill, the ability to generate bone-rattling hits that Redskins' defensive coach Gregg Williams must envy, and an exuberance that shines on and off the ice.
While the Washington Redskins are, and probably always will be a social force of nature here, it would be hard to identify an individual player on any of their teams -- including their Super Bowl champions -- who measure up to Ovechkin in terms of their domination of the league in which they played. For fans of such as Darrell Green or John Riggins or Art Monk...they too were excellent players -- Hall of Fame worthy, to be sure -- but none (at least in our opinion) rose to the level that Ovechkin currently occupies.
No professional baseball player in Washington over the past half century was or is within shouting distance of Ovechkin's level of play, and we do not believe such fine players from Washington's basketball past such as Wes Unseld or Elvin Hayes had the ability to bring fans out of their seats each time they held the ball in the manner Ovechkin can when he takes the puck on a rush.
Washington, you are missing something very special -- as unique a player as has ever played in this city. A professional sports career is among the most fleeting, and a star's best years are only a portion of that. Ovechkin has not yet reached his peak or his prime. That, by itself, makes his accomplishments thus far in his career all the more astonishing. That more people have not availed themselves of one of the most spellbinding young talents in the history of his sport is the tragedy of an opportunity wasted, of Washington "not figuring it out."
* Thanks to GeorgeSpigott on The Official for the heads up.