"...the NHL would have been far better off had [Alex] Ovechkin been allowed to bolt Washington as a restricted free agent this summer to join an NHL team in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, or New York – cities where Ovechkin's talents would have been better used to help raise the NHL's profile."
It would not be fair to fail to recognize some positive coverage of the signing -- Pierre LeBrun in Canada and Thom Loverro in Washington among those who saw benefit in the deal. But in the run-up to the deal announced on Thursday by Ted Leonsis there was a persistent "Ovechkin is better than Washington" or "Ovechkin should play in a real hockey market" drumbeat that annoys Caps fans and management, alike. But it also seems to reflect a comfortable amnesia, too.
What made Colorado a hockey market before the Avalanche arrived? The Rockies failed in Denver amidst uncertain ownership (changing hands twice in four years), a revolving door behind the bench (eight coaches in their first seven years), financial problems, and a poor on-ice product.
Dallas?...what made Dallas a strong hockey market before the Stars arrived from Minnesota in 1993? Before the Stars arrived, not even winning (nine trips to the Central Hockey League finals and three championships in 14 seasons) could keep the Dallas Black Hawks from having the plug pulled on their operation a decade earlier by their parent club (largely due to financial considerations stemming from high travel costs).
New Jersey? The franchise that used to be those Colorado Rockies?...the one famously called a "Mickey Mouse organization" by none other than Wayne Gretzky? This was a strong hockey market?
Tampa Bay?...a standing joke in the league that had one winning season in their first decade and averaged 44 losses a year (even with a strike-shortened season) over that decade?
Winning made those markets strong (although New Jersey continued to struggle some at the gate); winning allowed them to get a foothold, to bring folks to the rink and keep them coming to the rink once they saw what hockey was when watched live.
If Washington wins -- and re-signing Alex Ovechkin is a big investment in winning -- folks will come. Just as they did in Denver, Dallas, New Jersey, and Tampa.
So for all those in New York, Detroit, Canada, and wherever who disparaged Washington as a hockey market and the value of having a star as bright as Alexander Ovechkin re-upping in such a backwater, here's what you can say, Caps fans...
When Washington wins, crow will be served.