Sunday, March 23, 2008


Superstars-A New Generation

Aleaxander Ovechkin recently notched his sixtieth goal this year for the Washington Capitals. That marks the first time that any NHL player has recorded sixty goals in more than ten years. A couple of superstars accomplished the feat at that time-Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. (I almost left off their last names, because even the casual fan recognizes them both on a first name basis.)

There have been other Alexanders in the NHL. Mogilny comes to mind most quickly; however neither Mogilny nor any other Alexander was able to bring his game to the table in the same manner as Ovechkin. He is pure excitement.

He brings a joy and an excitement to the rink every night, and it is infectious. Last fall I prowled the lower halls of the arena in St. Louis after the Blues had beaten the Caps. Washington coach Hanlon was singing the praises of his young star: “He raises the level of play of every player on this team. The advantage is in our favour every time he steps on the ice.”

When he gets his seventieth goal, he will join the elite club: Gretzky, Hull, Selanne, Lemieux, Esposito, Mogilny, Kurri, and Bernie Nicholls. There is little doubt that Ovechkin will get there soon.

On the roundball court, another youngster has captured the imagination of all sports fans. Only two other players have been able to convert the casual NBA fan into a serious watcher: Michael Jordan and Kobie Bryant. As was the case with Bryant, LeBron James went directly from high school into the NBA. No two players have made that transition more smoothly.

There was little doubt that LeBron would be a force when he stepped onto the court. What is somewhat surprising is that he has taken his game, and his team, to such levels that other teams are jockeying for position so that they will not have to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.

LeBron has been with the Cavaliers for five years. The team entered the NBA in 1970. He recently became the all time leading scorer on the team even though several players in the past played twice as many games as he. He was drafted into the league in 2003 out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Ohio.

Even as a teenager, he was prepared to assume the mantle as the head of the team, and he leads them into every game. Attendance numbers skyrocket when the Cavs come to town, as they did when Jordan flew into Pearson.

The Raptors have their eyes on the standings as they play out their final games. To move on in the playoffs, they will have to play well, with everyone healthy. All those little nagging injuries will be forgotten as the adrenalin pulses. Egos need to be set aside for the benefit of the team.

There are other budding stars in both games, particularly Sidney Crosby on skates and Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets, and Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic on the hardwood.

It bodes well for both games that the young stars bring such energy to the game.

Perhaps some day young fans will have trouble recalling the names of Gretzky and Michael Jordan, and their exploits.

As far fetched as that may seem, young fans have no clue about Rocket Richard, or Bobby Hull. Even young basketball fans have little knowledge of George Mikan, Bill Russell, and Bob Cousy.
No matter. We all know that fame is fleeting. This article is not about fame. It is about enjoying the exploits of today’s fabulous young stars. Enjoy them while you can.

James Hurst

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