Every year around this time, it seems like the hockey community has the same boring conversation. Should the Hart Trophy go to the league’s best player or the player who is most valuable to his team? Can a Hart come from a non-playoff team? What does value mean anyway? It’s a repetitive, punishing retread of a tired debate, and it always misses the point.
Luckily, this year Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has a great case for winning the Hart. Nonetheless, in the interest of fairness, I’ll compare Ovi’s bonafides to the other big-name Hart contenders so we can end this silly prattle.
Even if he falls short of 50 goals, Alex Ovechkin’s 2017-18 campaign will be a massive success. Ovi rebounded from 33 goals just one season ago by starting the season with seven goals in his first two games. Nearly twenty percent of Capitals goals have come off Ovi’s stick directly, with another fifteen percent as an assist.
Age was supposed to ravage this player. We were supposed to be thankful if he even hit thirty goal. Compared to those expectations, Ovi has lapped the field. Now in his thirties, Ovi is still a one-of-a-kind offensive force in the league. For a team that lost a lot of scoring last offseason, Ovi’s renaissance has been a precious gift. Precious means of great value, and the Hart is for the player most valuable to his team, so Ovi should win the Hart Trophy. Obviously.
Still, let’s look at the other candidates for Hart.
Simply put, Bret Hart was the finest in-ring performer of the 80s and 90s. A five-time WWF World Heavyweight Champion, Bret’s combination of finesse and athleticism instantly made the stars of bygone eras (Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior) look like relics. Hart’s classic matches with Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin will be remembered for time immemorial.
Unfortunately, Hart retired in the early 00s and never played professional hockey, which should quash his chance for the MVP Trophy.
Not to be overshadowed by his older brother, Owen Hart was an important role player in professional wrestling for nearly two decades. Never a superstar in his own right, Owen was more of a guy-behind-the-guy, setting up bigger name performers like Bret – especially in their epic steel cage match at the 1994 SummerSlam.
Owen had heart and integrity, famously declining to perform a controversial affair storyline in the late 1990s. As a sort of punishment, Owen was assigned the comical Blue Blazer persona, which Hart performed with aplomb until a tragic harness accident ended his life in 1999.
Owen did not play hockey and is therefore ineligible for the Hart Trophy.
Brother-in-law to Owen and Bret, England-born Davey Boy Smith was the very first WWF European Champion, a title that was seemingly forgotten about as Smith held it for nearly a year before losing it in Manchester to Shawn Michaels, who is from Arizona.
The British Bulldog did stints on the big stage, but was also an international performer, wresting in Japan for years as well. Because he did not play hockey and passed away in 2002, it is unlikely that the British Bulldog will beat Ovechkin for the Hart.
Natalya Neidhart is a third generation Hart, currently performing with the WWE’s SmackDown brand, where she won the Women’s SmackDown Championship last year. She has also been featured on the Total Divas reality series, but seeing as she does not play hockey she doesn’t stand a chance at beating Ovechkin for the Hart.
A dark-horse candidate, I know. Chris Jericho is not strictly a member of the Hart family, but he trained with them and spent much of his career within their orbit. Still, Jericho’s music career with his band Fozzy might be too much of a distraction for him to win the Hart.
Thus it has been demonstrated that Ovechkin is the only viable Hart candidate. You have successfully read this entire article.
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