Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Most Important Development for Hockey Since the Stick

Dan Steinberg, author of D.C. Sports Bog in the Washington Post, penned a column for the print edition of the paper today titled, "Capitals Lead Washington Into New Ice Age." It is the latest in what seems a torrent of stories about the Capitals and their explosive evolution into a phenomenon of "buzz."

But there was a sentence buried in the fifth paragraph of the story that almost had me come out of my chair...

"Video of Ovechkin's latest highlight-reel goal was YouTube's most-viewed clip last Friday, and a film director recently called Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis to discuss making an IMAX movie featuring Ovechkin."

An IMAX feature featuring Ovechkin? Hockey is, as a lot of folks seem to want to describe it, an emotional game. It's more than that. It is a paradox. A game that is extremely complex in its effects on the senses -- the sound of blades cutting into the ice and pucks rattling around boards, the chill of an arena, the visual aspect of speed and collisions, the sudden rush that comes to the observer when a goal is scored, a save is made, or a hit is executed -- has difficulty translating this cauldron of sensory ingredients to television.

High-definition television helps with detail and the larger aspect screen, but still has the vague feel of being constrained and limited.

But now, imagine the greatest force of nature in the sport featured in an IMAX format. The dramatic increase in visual scale, coupled with the audio possibilities and Ovechkin's ability to seize the moment in the most dramatic way strikes us as perhaps precisely what hockey needs, not to "introduce" itself to a broader audience, but to kick down the door and put its entire collection of unique gifts on display on a scale we haven't experienced.

You couldn't do this with another player. Sidney Crosby might be a better player (ok, so he's not), but he is above all else a technician. There is a cold, passionless efficiency about his game that appeals to a purist, but perhaps not to a wider audience that isn't familiar with the game.

You couldn't do this with a goaltender. The nature of the position argues against it -- it is too static, even with the occasional acrobatics a goaltender might display.

And what personality would lend itself to "filling the space" in an IMAX format...Joe Thornton? Hey, I like to watch the guy work, and he is an immensely skilled player, but exciting he's not.

Evolution is not always a gradual process, scientists tell us. Sometimes, a species just takes an evolutionary "leap" forward. It seems hockey has been waiting for that leap since Pete Parker broadcast the first complete hockey game on radio more than eight decades ago. We are no technical expert in broadcasting, and we have no experience in video feature production. But as a fan, hearing the words "Ovechkin" and "IMAX" mentioned in the same sentence ran a jolt of electricity up our spine. We can't imagine anything else that could capture -- no, grab by the throat -- the sports fan who might until now have been indifferent to hockey.


wittcap79 said...

The only other player in the NHL today who could pull off the IMAX thing would be one Jarome Iginla.

Catalyst said...

Nice work on noticing this Peerless, I saw that line as well and got butterflies at the prospect of it coming to fruition. Let's cross our fingers and hope....

Kevin Jacobsen said...

"Sidney Crosby might be a better player (ok, so he's not), but he is above all else a technician. There is a cold, passionless efficiency about his game that appeals to a purist"

That's a very good way of describing it. And I agree that he's not better than Ovechkin (and I'm a Pens fan.) At this point, the argument should be more about Malkin or Ovechkin, not Crosby or Ovechkin.

(The answer is the same until Geno starts getting more goals. Then we can talk.)