In Defense of Ilya Kovalchuk

It seems that in the past few days there has been quite an uproar in the Devils fan community regarding their star winger Ilya Kovalchuk. Like many of his compatriots, Kovalchuk returned to the country where he learned to skate to continue playing the game he loves when the NHL hit it’s fourth work stoppage since 1992. Joining one of the Kontinental Hockey League’s top clubs, SKA St.Petersburg, he quickly became the team’s star and even took over as captain while scoring 42 points in 36 games.

He was rewarded for his play with a nomination by the fans to represent the west in the league’s all-star game this coming Sunday as well as the captaincy. However, the date coincides with when the NHL opens its training camps once the CBA has been ratified by the players. Rumors starting flying left and right about whether Kovalchuk will return to the Devils or try to find a loophole in the new CBA to keep him with SKA. American media jumped on it like rabid wolverines trying to dissect Russian print interviews using the ever terrible Google Translate.

Talk of Kovalchuk’s desire to stay in Russia and his reluctance to return to New Jersey have turned the team’s main source for offense to villain with a mega contract. Devils fans are still bitter their beloved Zach Parise batted his eyelashes at them, promising to re-sign, before taking a mega contract of his own in Minnesota. Now, the person who is most deserving of the captaincy is looked down upon by the all mighty fan based on interviews they can’t actually read. Here’s your wake up call people, Ilya Kovalchuk would never turn his back on New Jersey. This whole situation makes me feel like Allen Iverson.

For starters, if he had such a burning desire to play in Russia he would have done so during the summer of Kovy where SKA’s management were sniffing around. Although what seems like a far cry now, the Devils were runners-up for the Stanley Cup, you know, hockey’s holy grail, unmatched by any trophy including the Gagarin Cup. Sure he claims he would love to stay in Saint Petersburg and play for the fans but guess what? Unlike Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin, Kovalchuk didn’t come up through the ranks of SKA. In fact he was drafted away from Spartak Moscow and was born in Tver which isn’t anywhere near Russia’s original capital.

Plus after being locked out of the league that’s made him a star, as well as a very rich one, what would be his motive for staying away? You might be having trouble thinking of reasons because you’re either A)you just love to be “that guy” B) you hate Russians C) Zach Parise 4ever or D) Can’t face the fact that sooner or later no.17 will be the captain of this team. I urge you for your own sake to snap out of it because you will only be more miserable when Kovalchuk puts this team on his back and carries them to places they wouldn’t otherwise go. Meet your future, its name is kovalchuk.

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