You can be young and be an old fart. There were plenty of them in the Tampa Bay Lightning dressing room after Linus Omark made the transition from YouTube sensation to NHL sensation with his spectacular shootout goal to give the Edmonton Oilers a 4-3 win Friday.
There was plenty of stink in there after Omark ignited Rexall Place and sent the faithful home happy in his NHL debut, deciding the shootout with a spin-o-rama at the blueline, then hesitating and snapping a shot between the legs of Dan Ellis.
"It was a f*cking joke," sniffed Ryan Malone. "F*cking disrespectful is what it was." Simon Gagne chimed in with: "Nice goal, good move by him. Nice move. But in the NHL, there is a line. You don’t want to cross it. I think that time? It was a little bit too much."
Then, Martin St. St. Louis, his uniform still splattered with the mustard from Omark’s showmanship: "A little Youngblood-ish," he said. "Is there a need for that? No."
A f*cking joke? Disrespectful? A bit too much? That was some awful old-school thinking by the Bolts. The NHL is in the entertainment business. For fans, the people who buy the tickets and pay the freight, Omark The Entertainer delivered their money’s worth in one fell swoop.
The kid’s got flair, and big brass balls.
THAT’S WHAT OMARK DOES
Omark’s antics had Jim Matheson of The Journal, Rob Tychkowski of the Sun, Mark Spector of Sportsnet and I talking about what we’d seen after our stories were filed, our laptops were packed away and everybody else had left the writing room Friday night.
Surprisingly, the old scribes, Matheson and I, were loving what we’d seen from Omark. A goal like that with the game on the line in his NHL debut? That’s crazy, Bub. Spector was somewhat torn by the ballsy move Omark had pulled off, hovering between the wow factor and the hot-doggishness of it. Tychkowski seemed sour, like the air in the Tampa Bay room.
I’m guessing discussions among fans has been very much the same. Any chance we’ll hear that discussion played out publicly on Hockey Night In Canada tonight? Bet on it. Do tell, Grapes. do tell…
Ales Hemsky didn’t want to emerge from the players lounge last night and speak to the media because he’s out with a strained groin and didn’t play, but I did coax one word out of him about Omark’s feat. "Impressive," is all he said.
THEIR MONEY’S WORTH
There was nothing "disrespectful" about Omark’s goal. His spin-o-rama came 80 feet from the goal. It certainly unsettled Ellis, but not as much as when Omark froze him from 25 feet out with a hesitation move, slapping his stick on the ice, before whipping the rubber past him
Omark didn’t skate past the Tampa Bay bench pumping his fist or wind-willing his arm like Downtown Robby Brown — who was upstairs at Rexall Place looking on — would’ve in his heyday with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He didn’t point at anybody. He didn’t mug for the crowd. He didn’t do a one-stick pony ride down the ice ala Tiger Williams.
Omark clinched the game for the Oilers in the shootout. He delivered the kind of excitement fans pay damn good money to see. Omark didn’t show anybody up. What, pray tell, is disrespectful about that? What, if you reject all the dusty, dated thinking too often spouted by old-timers, and some who aren’t so old, wasn’t to like about what we saw Friday?
Players work their entire lives to make it to the NHL. The very lucky few who actually beat the odds and get that far get one NHL debut. One. No more. Fifty years from now, when Omark is an old man talking about the good old days, he’ll be able to tell his grandchildren about his first NHL game. He won’t have to embellish it one bit. Nobody who saw it will have to, either.
The cock-sure Swede gave Oilers fans a moment that was worth the price of admission and sent them home happy. Regardless of what the naysayers would have you believe, that’s the bottom line in the enterainment business. At least it should be.
WHILE I’M AT IT
— Omark didn’t get to have all the fun, of course. Dustin Penner had himself a helluva game, again. The big man is into it right now. He’s engaged and involved. He went right to Pavel Kubina and tossed him around a bit after he flattened Omark. The Oilers are going to need more of that with Shawn Horcoff and Hemsky out.
— Magnus Paajarvi is getting revved up and closing the gap that’s existed with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. Hall was an absolute force again Friday, but Paajarvi is feeling it now and looking like the player many thought might be the sleeper of the trio.
— I was rolling my eyes when Nikolai Khabibulin got the start instead of Devan Dubnyk, but let’s not fault him for a coaching decision. Khabibulin damn sure won’t be around when this team gets really good, but he was magnificent Friday. His job is to stop pucks and to do it whenever he’s called upon, even if that’s happening a bit too much for my liking.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.