It’s not you, Ovie, it’s me. Really. You’re a fine, no, amazing, wonderful player, and a really knee-slapping funny guy, but somehow, in some strange way, I just don’t feel it.
And don’t feel bad, Sidney, Patrick and Jonathan, I really, really like you but not just that way. You’re all stars, All-Stars even, and deservedly so, because you’re fast, and furious – mostly in just the right way – you can do anything with the puck, stuff that I sit here watching on YouTube, frame-by-frame and still not quite fathoming how you did it.
It’s hard to put a finger on it, but there’s something that’s keeping you … distant.
I like you, and I respect you, and I can even say that I admire you, but – and I hope you’re sitting down when you read this – I don’t love you.
Not the way I loooooved Valeri Kharlamov. Whose autobiography I read every year to remind myself of the time his team was told to jump up and down the entire third period, to make it more difficult against a weaker opponent, and to hear him talk about the – what must have been perfectly in line with Soviet propaganda that I didn’t realize at the time, and instead, considered it simply beautiful – importance of team spirit, courage, and getting back at bullies by beating them in the game.
I even thought I looked like him, with my Slavic cheek bones and … well, he was short, too.
Not the way I so wanted to be just like Wayne Gretzky to the point that I even cut a photo of Gretzky out of a magazine and pasted it over my own on my monthly bus pass in Helsinki, Finland. And then learned to write his autograph just like he did — off of a poster I had over my bed.
(And Wayne, don’t worry, I never signed any checks or hockey cards).
I let my hair grow long just like him, I tucked my sweater into my pants – and not just hockey pants – on the right hand side like him, I wore number 99, I learned to do that bashful look that he does (with face a little down, looking up), I worked on my backhand (like he told me to) and I only played with white Titan sticks, just like him.
But that’s just the way it goes. Ovie, Sidney, Patrick, Jonathan, Evgeni, never mind me, somewhere out there, there’s a kid who’s also watching your every move on YouTube, and understanding getting, and then trying them out on the driveway.
Somebody’s mimicking your every move, choosing the number 87, or painting his face like a Native American, because of you.
Somebody out there is even trying to have an Ovechkin hairdo, just like I tried to have Gretzky’s who tried to have Gordie Howe’s receding hairline as a 12-year-old.
I’m afraid I’m going back together with my old love, but don’t worry, we’ll always be friends.