Have you ever heard one of the soccer (futbol) announcers scream, "Gooooooooooooooo (take a deep breath) aaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll" after a goal? I don't care who you are. When you hear that kind of exuberance and excitement, you can't help but smile and maybe even laugh out loud with some of the same bubbly enthusiasm. Or have you ever heard Rick Jeanneret of the Buffalo Sabres call a game with his unending flair and over-the-top excitement? RJ has brought goose bumps to the skin of many fans and he is a breath of fresh air in the hockey play-by-play world. Not to diminish the other terrific NHL play-by-play and color guys around the league, but RJ has something different; something special. I'm sure there are Ranger fans and TO fans who hate the guy and think he is bad for the game. Either way, I think he adds way more pizzazz to a game than he takes away and we need a few more like him.
The same applies to the players and their goal scoring celebrations. There have been some great individual goal scoring celebrations throughout the years, but there are only a few players that have had some consistency in that excitement. That special effect. In today's NHL, only one stands alone in this excitement - Alexander Ovechkin. Nobody else can even come close. He is flair. He is excitement. He is pizzazz. He is "the love of the game." I don't care who the NHL believes is the "face of the NHL" because to me, it is AO - pure and simple. Sure he is a great player, a great goal scorer, and physical brick. People don't care about the color of his laces or the number of missing teeth or the skates or stick he is using on any given day. People are infected by his smile and goal scoring celebrations. The Caps could win 4 - 0 and AO could be held off the scoreboard and the game is just another game. Conversely, the Caps could lose 6-5 and AO could crash the glass after scoring 4 goals and it would be one of the most exciting games of the year. Visiting fans have packed their home arenas the last few seasons to catch a glimpse of that "Ovechkin Factor."
Although Alex has no "goal scoring celebration" rival today in the NHL, that has not always been the case. There was a short, out of shape, Canadian kid in the 80s and 90s who could "light the lamp" and then light the crowd - Dino Ciccarelli. Dino and Alex Ovechkin are different in so many ways. In fact, they have very little in common. It is true that they both played for the Washington Capitals and it is true that they could/can both score goals in the NHL. It is also true that they were/are both genuinely excited when they scored/score. It is that exuberance and infectious smile after scoring a goal that makes them similar. AO scores the highlight reel goal in the upper corner and jumps 4 feet off the ice into the corner glass with a smile showing that he is missing 2 teeth on top and only one on the bottom. Dino scored goals the ugly way. He whacked at rebounds until the puck crossed the line. He twice scored over 50 goals in his 19 year career with Minnesota, Detroit, Washington, TB and Florida. He scored 608 career NHL goals and everytime he scored, he celebrated with that "Dino" smile and that kid-like excitement.
Dino and AO are not the only ones to grace us with their excitement for scoring and their smiles, but I think the list is way too short. Teemu Selanne in Winnipeg and Wayne Gretzky in Edmonton showed us that flair and excitement in their early years. Many would argue that Theo Fleury is in the Ovechkin class of "top goal celebrations." Jagr showed some flair in the early days and Pavel Bure always seemed to show a level of excitement that was higher than most. Justin Williams and Martin St. Louis can gyrate and celebrate with the best of them.
For you football fans, you will recognize the Icky Shuffle, the Lambeau Leap, the Dion Sanders high step, the Gunslinger Shoot 'em Up, or the Chicago Bears' Superbowl Shuffle. All of them are memorable celebrations and they certainly bring some extra flair to the game. I'd like to have a few hockey goal scoring celebrations be worthy of an "official name" and be note worthy to non-NHL fans. Here is to that hope. Here is to seeing one of todays' young stars redo the Dave "Tiger" Williams stick ride goal scoring celebration this season. Here is to someone jumping over their own bench boards and into their own teammates waiting arms. Here is to seeing more of AO, many more memorable goal scoring celebrations in the NHL, and a new generation of goal scorers who have a large and deep bag of goal scoring tricks to grace the NHL fans for years to come.