A Tribute to Alex Kovalev, My Favorite Player (Non-Mario Division)

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As you probably know, NHL forward and YouTube Sensation Alex Kovalev formally announced his retirement on Thursday, ending a very brief run with the Florida Panthers.

As I have stated before, Kovy has been the NHL player who has most-influenced my development as a Hockey Player, and one of the last players I grew up idolizing remaining in the League. I wanted there to be at least one article on the internet that gave him his deserved due and maybe made younger fans realize what a wonderful player he was in his prime.

What Made Kovy So Special?

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Obviously his once-in-a-lifetime talent. Being objective, I have to look at Kovy’s resume and honestly question why he did not get more out of his natural ability, but there was absolutely no doubt that he was one of the most pure talents the League has ever seen:

This is not ground-breaking information. I remind you, Kovy is capable of causing such man-crushing that he inspired the citizens of Montreal to riot upon learning that Management was not going to re-sign him. Kovy single-handily perpetuated the stereotype of the enigmatic Russian, because one night he would look like the Best Hockey Player Ever, and another he would be invisible.

Some people viewed Kovy as an under-achiever, but that’s going to happen when you have Talent on loan from God and fail to fully utilize it. My view is that Kovy gave Hockey Fans a veritable bevy of breathtaking moments, and should not have his character accosted because he was not pathologically competitive.

What Mario Said About Kovy

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On who was the better player, MARIO LEMIEUX or Kovy:

“I’d say Kovy,” Lemieux admitted. “He’s the best stickhandler I’ve ever seen. Quickness. Hands. A much better stickhandler than me. He’s got the talent to be the best player in the world.”

Again, that came from Mario Lemieux, who has his own statue outside of his own arena that sits along a street named after him. The Best Ever. Mario thought, “I’m OK, but Kovy’s really the talent of the operation.”

That’s how good Kovy was in his prime: he had Mario Lemieux, one of the most composed and dignified people you could ever hope to meet, gushing.

My Personal Thanks to Kovy

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Hockey has always been the most important thing to me, and Kovy is the NHL player who most strongly-shaped me.

I am not an exceptional talent. I am a good athlete and a hard worker. The only thing I have in common with Kovy is that we have similar builds and both shoot left-handed.

Whether I unconsciously copied his shot mechanics or whether our similar builds led me to develop in a similar fashion as him, I look quite a bit like Kovy when I shoot. I am extremely proud of it. Like Kovy, I almost shoot one-handed, pulling my 110-flex mini-stick hard with my top hand (TWSS). With the right stick, I can really fire a Wrister. I’ve scored some goals. I have Kovy to thank for both the creativity and ingenuity he displayed, and also for setting a template for me to model myself after.

Aside from how he helped shape me as a Hockey Player, Kovy also made it really enjoyable to be a Penguins fan during his five-year run with the team. Mario was obviously not around for much of that late-1990s/early-2000s period, and I was getting increasingly fed up with the petulent diva-ism of Jaromir Jagr. Before my own games or before my scheduled under-age drinking, I could watch the Pens any given night and always have at least one player to really appreciate.

I realize he had a memorable career with both the Canadiens and the Rangers, but for me he will always be a Pittsburgh Penguin. He was at his best in a Pens’ sweater, where he was allowed to be himself and really began to shine as a player. He had some great moments for the franchise. He had some even better goals as a Penguin.

I kid you not, I almost put my fist through the screen of a Duquesne University campus computer upon reading that Kovy had been dealt to the New York Rangers for 30 Pieces of Silver and the Pu Pu Platter. It remains one of the most-miserable 20 days of my life. Watching the Penguins have to auction off Kovy, a magnificent talent who wanted to stay in Pittsburgh, to a rival team that embodied everything I detested in the pre-Lockout NHL, was harrowing. It was not quite as bad as watching Mario get booed by 4,000 invading Maple Leafs fans in Mellon Arena, but it was freaking brutal.

(Mostly unrelated, but I also want to again take former Penguins’ GM Craig Patrick to the wood-shed for not neither getting out of bed before noon nor working his archaic fax machine properly in Summer 2005, allowing Kovy to re-sign with the Habs and then giving Kovy’s salary to low-integrity quitter Ziggy Palffy. I understand that he had to sell-off Kovy for laundry money in 2003, but that should have been immediately rectified in Summer 2005 after the economic playing field in the NHL was leveled. Regrettably, CP did not have as much “internet” as he had Robitussin in his dingy office at Mellon Arena as recently as 2005, so the Habs got the jump and signed Kovy while CP went after noted NHL difference-makers Andre Roy and Jocelyn Thibault. It would have been Awesome to have seen Kovy back in a Pens’ jersey during his prime, a Wrong that took until Spring 2011 to Right. Not that I am still holding this against Craig Patrick or anything.)

Kovy’s return the Penguins in 2011 was obviously-diminished, as he was still recovering from the effects of an ACL tear the prior season. As Kovy himself said, he could not keep up in Coach Disco’s uptempo system. While I insist that Kovy would have been a much more effective player had he had access to either Sid (out with concussion/fractured vertebrae) or Geno (out with ACL/MCL surgery) – you know, one of the Penguins’ two All-World Centers who had been looking for elite help on the wing since 2006 or so.

Still, it was really great to see Kovy back in a Pens’ uniform, even if it had to be that ridiculous-looking #72. He managed to make a couple of memorable moments during his second tour with the Pens:

In short, I just want to say thanks to Alex Kovalev for putting his remarkable skills on display for all NHL Hockey fans, but in particular for his time spent in Pittsburgh. One can debate his Hall-of-Fame credentials, but in my view he’s a Generational Player, at the very least. People of a certain age are going to vividly remember Kovy as one of the true game-breakers. Anyone who saw him up-close knows that he is one the best players the League has seen.

Here’s to the Russian Rifle. Best of luck in the future.

Jack

About sfarrell11000
All over the place

One Response to A Tribute to Alex Kovalev, My Favorite Player (Non-Mario Division)

  1. Pingback: Jack’s All-Time Favorite NHL Players | Jack_Has_Spoken

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