I had no clue how much a polarizing figure Steve Ott was until he was suspended this past weekend. I found myself defending Ott on multiple website among hockey fans from all over the NHL, who pretty much collectively thought that Steve Ott deserved the beating Travis Moen handed him. Nevermind the fact that Ott was pretty much defenseless and couldn't legally fight back; most people hoped that Ott received many more shots to the face in the future.
Why so much anomosity towards Ott? Many say that Ott is a cowardly player, never man enough to back up the words he is so famous for using. Fans around the NHL feel that Ott is known for "turtling" out of fights and refuses to ever engage in a fair bout of fistacuffs. Some others say that Ott is a cheap shot artist who should be held accountable for his late hits by opposing players.
I say it's all about perspective.
To me, Steve Ott is the ultimate team player. Every thing he does is meant to help out the Dallas Stars in some way. When Ott first came into the league there wasn't much room on the team for another scoring winger, so he carved out a niche for himself on the fourth line as an aggressive agitator, a player who specializes is pissing off the other team. Steve Ott is adept at being able to draw penalties and give the Stars the advantage, night after night. He was a huge factor in the first two rounds of the playoff series last season, when his physicality and aggressiveness gave the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks fits. While his refusal to fight at times can cause fans of opposing teams to question his "manhood", his smart play puts the Stars on the power play more times than none.
Steve Ott is an emotional, physical hockey player and when you play that style of hockey that are risks you must take. It's not the smartest form of hockey, either. There are times where he has crossed the edge he walks each night, notably last season when he was suspended for a high hit on Colorado's Jordan Leopold. It was a particularly vicious hit, although technically Ott left his feet and thus was suspended accordingly. Yet Ott has never been one out to intentionally hurt opposing players.
This season, with Brenden Morrow out of the lineup, Ott has become much more important to the Dallas Stars than at any other point in his career. He is the team's emotional catalyst and he has become more than just the team's agitator. His hard working style spills over to the rest of the lineup and and creates chances for those on his line. His offensive skills have never been more apparent than this season, where he has become an key member of the Stars' top offensive line.
Steve Ott will also be the first player on the ice to stand up for a teammate. Currently, he cannot physically or legally fight because of a broken hand he sustained while fighting. Last Saturday, Ott had caused problems for the Ducks all game long, incensing them with hit after hit. His rough play towards captian Scott Niedermayer brought the rage of multiple Ducks players from all over the ice. Ott held on for dear life while Travis Moen rained punches down on his head, all the while never swinging back. Ott was eventually suspended for eye-gouging Moen once both were on the ice although both have said it was most likely unintentional.
For whatever reason, Ott is the object of fans and opponents' discontent. Yet I can gaurantee that every single player and fan out there would welcome Ott to their team with open arms. He is in the middle of a career year offensively and never before has he his worth to a hockey team been more apparent.
Perhaps the fact that he gets so much attention is a good thing. If he can keep doing what he does best, scoring goals and getting opponent's thrown in the penalty box, he can stay hated for all I care.
All I know is that I am proud Steve Ott plays for my team and I wouldn't want him to be any other way.