If there’s two things that hold a lot of real estate in my brain, it’s Star Wars and hockey. With the Last Jedi coming out in just a matter of days and hockey season in full swing, it feels like I am spending every waking moment thinking about either dangles, snipes, and cellies or Midi-chlorians, lightsaber crystals, and the taxation disputes of the Galactic Republic. Because of my passion for both Star Wars and hockey, my thoughts on the two subjects can sometimes become fused. Most of the time, these thoughts are simply absurd and nonsensical. Would Jar Jar Binks play center or left wing? Would Jabba the Hutt wear one skate on the end of his tail, or multiple along his body to help him slide across the ice? However, I recently came to an epiphany that may actually hold a great deal of value in term’s of evaluating a player’s body of work and how his career will pan out going forward. Alex Ovechkin’s career in the National Hockey League has greatly mimicked Darth Vader’s body of work both as a Jedi and as the apprentice of Galactic Emperor and Sith Lord Darth Sidious. I will now present the most striking similarities between these two figures, and what these similarities might indicate about Ovechkin’s future in the NHL.
Pedigree and Upbringing:
Both Vader and Ovechkin were clearly destined for greatness starting at a young age. Ovechkin was primed to become a great athlete, as his mother was a two time Olympic gold medalist in basketball for the USSR. While Vader’s mother was a humble slave woman of Tatooine, he came from powerful stock as well. Many believe that Vader had no father, and was actually conceived by the force, making him a prime candidate to become a powerful force wielder when he came of age. For both Vader and Ovechkin, the potential that their pedigree provided them with was obvious early on. Ovechkin gained a reputation as a dominant junior hockey player in his home country of Russia, while Vader, then known as Anakin Skywalker, showed natural talent as a pod racer on Tatooine and even built his own protocol droid. These displays of natural ability made Skywalker and Ovechkin highly sought after commodities at a young age. Ovechkin was such a touted prospect that the Florida Panthers attempted to draft the young Russian a year before he was draft eligible, attempting to use leap years as a loophole that would make him old enough to be drafted. As we all know, this attempt failed and he was drafted the following season by the Washington Capitals. Similarly, Anakin showed so much potential that Qui-Gon Jinn vowed to train him without the consent of the Jedi Counsel. Much like Florida’s attempt to draft Ovechkin, this attempt was quite literally short lived, as Qui-Gon was soon slain at the hand of Darth Maul. Anakin then became apprentice to Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon’s former Padawan.
Neither Vader nor Ovechkin have ever been media darlings. Both have been subject to some unwarranted or excessive criticism from public talking heads. Though a slew of former coaches, teammates, and players around the league vouch for Ovechkins passion and dedication to the game, Ovechkin is sometimes portrayed as a selfish, lazy teammate who is difficult to coach. Darth Vader was a valuable asset to the Jedi during much of the Clone Wars, and eventually killed the Emperor who had been plaguing the galaxy for years. Despite this, most in the media still describe Vader as the most iconic “villain” from the Star Wars Universe. Additionally, both Vader and Ovechkin are often falsely portrayed as chokers. Though Ovechkin has never made it past the second round of the playoffs, his career playoff statistics indicate that he is still an elite player in the postseason, and a large portion of the blame for his playoff failures goes to the teams he has had around him. Darth Vader’s most well know ability was being able to telekinetically choke his victims. However, as a master of the Force, Vader’s abilities extended far beyond that. Defining him by just one of his abilities creates a false narrative. Finally, both Vader and Ovechkin have gotten some media heat for supporting unpopular autocratic political figures, with Ovechkin being an outspoken advocate in favor of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Vader spending much of his career as the right hand man to the tyrannical Emperor Palpatine.
Style of Play
Both Vader and Ovechkin use sheer power and brute force to dominate their opponents. When Vader boards the rebel ship at the end of Rogue One leading into a New Hope, the rebels know what’s coming their way. He doesn’t have any tricks in his back pocket. He just goes straight at them and slaughters the entire lot, kidnapping Princess Leia. This is similar to Ovechkin’s one timer from the left dot. Every goalie in the league knows it’s coming. Everyone in the stadium knows when the Caps are trying to set it up. But that doesn’t matter. Eventually Ovechkin’s gonna over power the goaltender and find pay-dirt. Vader and Ovechkin also tend to lead more through their actions on the front lines than through words and inspiring speeches. When the media questions Ovechkin’s leadership as the Capitals’ team captain, teammates often vouch that Ovechkin elevates the players around him through his effort, passion, and on-ice results. As an imperial military leader, Vader is a man of few words when he leads his troops into battle. Still, imperial soldiers are inspired by Vader’s presence as they know his power and battle prowess can be enough to turn the tide of war.
If Alexander Ovechkin is truly following in the footsteps of Darth Vader, the future of his career is unclear. The culminating moment of Vader’s career was killing Darth Sidious and destroying the Sith. There are two ways to evaluate how Vader reached this achievement. To some, Vader was a Sith through and through who switched sides at the last possible moment to destroy the Emperor. Taking this point of view, it is easy to theorize that Ovechkin will follow suit by joining another team late in his career to finally achieve the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup. However, others posit that Vader was always the Chosen One, and was thus always destined to destroy the Sith. His time spent on the Dark Side was essentially a long bump in the road to fulfilling his ultimate destiny of destroying the Sith and bringing balance to the Force. Under this point of view, perhaps Ovechkin’s destiny has always been to win a Stanley Cup with the Capitals. Perhaps eventually he will achieve his ultimate goal with the only team he has ever been a part of, and in the end the slew of playoff disappointments will be viewed as mere obstacles leading up to his career’s defining moment. Only time will tell.