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12/15/2006 12:44:00 PM

Too much joy?

The NHL’s current wave of young Russian stars has brought some color to the proceedings along with prodigious talent. Alex Ovechkin and rookie Alexander Radulov, like Ilya Kovalchuk before them, are worth watching not only for what they do before they score, but after. Leg kicks, fist pumps, war hoops -- their celebrations are often lengthy, elaborate and fun – unless, of course, you’re on the other team or belong to its legion of rooters.

Radulov, who is prone to screaming and waving his arms as he skates down the ice in a spontaneous display of joy, was recently told to put a cork in it – by teammate Steve Sullivan, lest Radulov rile the Predators’ opponents with a show of blatant disrespect. NHL culture scowls upon such antics, reducing them to a relative rarity, usually reserved for brassy $#I+ disturbers like Tiger Williams and Theo Fleury who gained added notoriety for riding their sticks or, in the case of Fleury, sliding along the ice on his knees while wildly pumping his fist.

Radulov told The Tennessean that he wasn’t aware of this long-standing unwritten rule when he arrived in the NHL, but he is now, and will try to restrain himself. Is this a good thing? I’m conflicted. The customary raised sticks and hearty group greeting feel right, but a little extra flair after a meaningful goal can be fun and amusing to watch. Two personal favorites: Milan Hejduk belly-flopping and swimming, and Brent Sutter doing a Chuck Berry-esque duck walk with his stick as guitar.

Loosening the strings might not be such a bad thing. Then I consider the NFL. What started as an entertaining thing with Homer Jones’ simple spike has steadily evolved into annoying tedium with obligatory dances and routines after every touchdown, not to mention players gyrating, strutting, pounding their chests and miming after every routine tackle. Maybe it’s just the overkill, but do we really want to see Sidney Crosby lying on the ice and pretending to sleep after lighting the lamp? Five Predators river-dancing in front of a prone Dominik Hasek?

What do you think? Would you welcome more Radulovian displays? Can the NHL use the added color? Or will excessive celebrations put a match to what is already a powder keg of emotion and energy, inciting more fighting – which is, ironically, one of the NHL’s more popular features, although many are loathe to admit it. Where is the line between good taste and disrespect? And, finally, whose goal celebrations do you enjoy – or deplore? -- posted by John Rolfe

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