General Manager George McPhee said Alex Ovechkin will not participate in the NHL’s All Star game, which is scheduled for later this week in Ottawa.
Ovechkin was suspended for three games by the NHL on Monday for his hit on Pittsburgh’s Zbynek Michalek. The star left wing said he didn’t feel comfortable attending the All-Star game and did not want to be a distraction. McPhee said he supported Ovechkin’s decision to pull out of the All Star game.
“My heart is not there. I got suspended, so why I have to go there?” Ovechkin said. “I love the game, it’s a great event, I love to be there but I’m suspended. I don’t want to be a target. I feel I’m not deserving to be there right now. I got suspended, I have to be suspended, so that’s why I give up my roster [spot].”
Ovechkin was disappointed in the length of his suspension and said he didn’t believe his check on Michalek in the second period of Washington’s 4-3 overtime loss Sunday was a dirty hit.
“Most bad thing is it’s going to be all my career, it’s going to be like that,” Ovechkin said, referencing his status as a repeat offender. “My game is play physical, my game is play hard, and I don’t think it was bad hit, dirty hit. Yeah, I jumped, but he don’t get hurt. I don’t get two minutes. I don’t think it was three-game suspension.”
Nor did McPhee, who said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the length of Ovechkin’s suspension. McPhee said he anticipated discipline to be either a fine or perhaps a one-game suspsension.
Ovechkin said he believed the hit was his normal style of physical play and that Michalek moved as he was heading toward the corner, resulting in the more violent hit.
“I play with body,” Ovechkin said. “My shoulder was down, my elbow was down. If he stand up and he don’t go down it will be good hit. He saw me, I’m coming, he decide to go down.”
Part of McPhee’s disappointment in the ruling by Brendan Shanahan, the league’s vice president of player safety, is Ovechkin’s status as a repeat offender.
Ovechkin has been fined twice and suspended twice in his career prior to this three-game suspension. The fines were a result of a slew foot against Rich Peverley in 2009 and boarding against Danny Briere in 2006. The suspensions both occurred in the 2009-10 season and resulted from a knee-on-knee hit against Tim Gleason and a hit from behind on Brian Campbell.
McPhee stated his support for the NHL’s effort to remove dangerous hits from the game but said that prior infractions should not be held against Ovechkin now because of ambiguity in the rules in previous seasons.
“We’ve come to a place where we think [rules for hits are] clearer. I think there was some gray in the past,” McPhee said. “That’s why I was disappointed in the suspension, because he’s considered a repeat offender. I don’t believe he should have been suspended in the past for at least one of those hits.
“The one in Chicago, he outweighed the player by 50 pounds. It’s not his fault and there was a lot of gray there,” McPhee continued. “We’ve cleaned up the gray and it’s clear what we’re trying to do, but I think that was a factor in the decision and I don’t think it should have been and we made that case yesterday.”
Midway through Ovechkin’s media scrum, a fan standing at the top of the bleachers on the opposite side of the rink yelled out, “Hit him again, Ovi!”
“I will,” Ovechkin replied with a smile.
More from Post Sports:
— Leonsis disagrees with Ovechkin suspension
— Should Ovechkin participate in All-Star game?
— Ovechkin suspended three games for hit
— Michalek escapes punishment for elbow
— Backstrom skates for first time since Jan. 6