ILYA KOVALCHUK: THE MIND OF A MAD MAN
Not mad, like a Hatter. Though Kovalchuk may be completely bonkers, I have no idea. I don’t know the guy.
I mean mad. As in bothered, pissed, irate, terse, angry, disgruntled, peeved, annoyed, distraught. Quivering with unchecked, blood boiling hostility and rage.
But I’m not even going to say that Kovalchuk is any of those things. I don’t know the guy.
I will say that were I to walk this particular mile in his shoes, I would be furious.
Furious at who? If I were Kovalchuk, I could direct my aggression towards the NHL. Afterall, they won and I lost! Maybe, had I been born Ilya, I would look to the sky and cry out to the heavens, “why me?!” It wouldn’t be out of character for me, as an NHL superstar, to just react by taking a few swings at my wife. Richard Bloch is an easy third party to turn hatred towards, his decision being the final one. But the more I think about it, what seems most clear to me are the holes I would be burning through the heads of Lou Lamoriello and Jay Grossman.
Backwards thinking? Maybe. The NHL, well, Gary Bettman, is the one who denied Kovalchuk his hard earned and hard fought payday. But the NHL didn’t convince me that I would be getting that money, on that team, in the first place. Lou did. Jay did.
I have a hard time convincing myself that Grossman and Lamoriello cautioned Kovalchuk that signing this deal could, and most likely would be, a battle. Maybe Jay and Lou were cavalier about the whole thing, that the NHL would bitch and moan but ultimately there was really no way it would get to this point. I doubt that. I may dislike these two men, but they aren’t stupid. But they are smart enough not to tell a hockey player who had spent 3 weeks patiently deciding where to play that the contract he was about to sign was tethered to a rope that already had a knife positioned next to it.
So far as my snooping has turned up, Kovalchuk has not publicly expressed his opinions (canned or otherwise) on the matter of Richard Bloch rejecting his $102 million, 17 year contract with the New Jersey Devils. Maybe I’m not a very good researched and Kovalchuk has spoken. I’m sure at some point he will. He will likely be hearing about this arbitration decision for a good, long time, if not the rest of his career.
We don’t know what Kovalchuk really thinks. Until we do, I will entertain myself, and hopefully you, by speculating.
I mean that. Poor guy. I may agree with Bloch’s ruling and jest at the Devil’s. I feel no shame in the smugness I inwardly project towards Grossman, one that is generally reserved for face to face encounters.
However, far as I can reason in my skull, Kovalchuk has been wronged.
Grossman has done him wrong. Lou Lamoriello has done him wrong. The NHL has done him wrong. By the way, I have decided to start pronouncing Lou’s name phonetically. Lah-MORE-ee-eh-low. Say it slow, then say it fast a few times. Its fun. Its right. What’s wrong is that Kovalchuk has likely been led down a path that has resulted in one of the most embarrassing moments an unrestricted free agent has ever experienced. Perhaps Kovalchuk dug his eyes out with his own broach here. It is certainly reasonable to assume that Kovalchuk’s personal utmost priority was to get more money on the free agent market than Atlanta was willing to offer; plausible that Kovalchuk, entirely of his own accord, decided that he would settle for nothing less than $100 million in 10 years. Is it crazy to think Kovalchuk has an ego bigger than his brain? A greed more voracious than his enthusiasm for playing hockey?
Sure, these things can be purported. They are within the realm of possibility.
But on the ice, Kovalchuk has never been that person. According to the majority of his teammates who have spoken about him in the past, he is a quality teammate, and a boon, not a blight, in the locker room. Kovalchuk did not demand to be traded from Atlanta. He has never displayed the brash arrogance that we have seen from several other stars over the years. By all first hand accounts, his family is his primary concern.
Kovalchuk just signed and was rejected to play out the largest contract in NHL history. Are we to assume Kovalchuk is equally as careless? Self absorbed to the point that today did not bruise his sensibilities?
I can hang with a lot of followed thought I don’t personally agree with, but I have a limit. Kovalchuk can be seen in a bad light, but in that light, always lay the shadows of Grossman and Lah-MORE-ee-eh-low (or more likely, New Jersey ownership – the shadow’s spectre). What I choose to believe, for the time being, is that Kovalchuk is for the most part, an ignorant pawn. I don’t mean to say he is an ignorant person… although he very well may be… he also may be an idiot savant, a certified genius or just a regular dude with a regular amount of gray matter. I mean to say that he is either incapable of, disinterested in, or purposefully left in the dark on the complexity and gravity of this ongoing drama. We must ask ourselves, was Kovalchuk surprised that his contract was rejected in the first place? Come to think of it, have we heard a peer from Kovalchuk since the press conference in New Jersey? Did he sign that contract with the same knowledge that it is fair to assume Grossman and Lah-MORE-ee-eh-low possessed; that his mega-deal would be the object of the league’s malice?
Sure, to an extent. I must imagine that Kovalchuk was aware in some regard that he never really intended to play for 6 years at league minimum. The question is, how well was he convinced that this would fly with Bettman? When he set out on his journey into the first circle of hell, did he realize Purgatorio awaited him? Or is he blinded by the promise of paradise? Is he sitting on the edge of a hill, covered in a bushy white coat, or peering out from an ivory tower?
I don’t know.
My gut tells me that he won’t… that he can’t, take this in stride. Without being privy to his direct thoughts, I am convinced until proven otherwise that Ilya Kovalchuk will not take kindly in the future to any of the parties involved in putting the superstar in such a position of shame. Sorry Grossman, sorry Lou… sorry NHL?
I may be the victim of wishful thinking or over-assumptive-psychological-indulgence of my streamed consciousness. I admit, I want Kovalchuk to fire Grossman. I want him to turn his back on the Devil’s. Yes, I still do want him in Los Angeles.
But what everyone wants to know, is what next?
Well for the first time in this saga, the answer to that question may finally be Kovalchuk’s to truly give.
Or maybe he just doesn’t care.