He Shoots, He Scores, America Snores

By Tony Kornheiser
Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Hockey is dead.

At least it's dead right here, right now.

The Caps have played 74 games. They only have eight left, and they've been playing since October. And when was the last time they came up at all in conversation? Not just the Caps, any NHL team? For five bucks, name the coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, I dare you.

Hockey is so dead in America, the players may as well still be locked out. You can't find hockey anywhere on television unless you're looking for the Bicycle Race network. The biggest NHL story all season was the accusation that Wayne Gretzky's once-hot actress wife was betting with Gretzky's bookmaking assistant coach. The games pass unnoticed.

The Caps have the rookie of the year -- maybe the rookie of the last 10 years. And when was the last time somebody walked up to you and said, "How 'bout that Ovechkin?" That only happened, oh, 30 times a few weeks ago when the Redskins signed Randle El. Even with Ovechkin, the Caps haven't made a dent this season. Stories about them are rarely on the front page of the sports section; they're usually buried inside, in what I like to call "MLS Hell."

In one big game tonight, more people will root for and care about the Maryland women's basketball team than have cared about the Capitals in 74 games. (By the way, Cindy and I are calling the Maryland team, the "Gurtles," a combination of "girls" and "turtles." Catchy, huh? Fear the Gurtles!) Beyond Ovechkin, Olie the Goalie and Montpelier, how many Capitals can you name? And what kind of scheduling bozo gave the Caps three straight games against Carolina this late in the season? Earth to Gary Bettman: This isn't baseball. They're not the Yanks and Sawx.

Hockey didn't just lose last season. It appears to have lost its place.

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