Ovi to soccer ball: “I must stop you.” (All photos taken by Pavel Lysenkov of Sovietsky Sport)

Ahead of its quarter-final matchup Thursday with Canada, Team Russia assistant coach Igor Zakharkin ordered his players to abandon the team’s scheduled morning practice and instead play soccer at Rapid Stadium in Bratislava. Much like former Capitals head coach Ron Wilson, who would arrange team-building bowling outings when the Caps were struggling, Zakharkin is looking to take pressure off of his team.

Russia, who has lost two straight games and is 3-3 overall in the tournament, has not gelled at any point during their time in Slovakia and has played in five straight one-goal games. The dominant team that had won 27 straight World Championship games last year has not appeared. If they lose against Canada, Russia will be eliminated.

Zakharkin spoke with Sovietsky Sport’s Dmitri Ponomarenko and Vitaly Slavin about his decision to avoid the rink today and also discussed the shirtless soccer goalie above, Alex Ovechkin. Fedor Fedin has your translation.

Question – You’re going to play soccer…

Zakharkin – It’s not like we just go play soccer. We’re not a soccer team. We need the ball to generate team interaction and improve speed and force. On the field we form the team we want to see on the ice. Aggressive, fast, winning the battles, making quick decisions!

Question – What is missing from our leaders? Is it self-confidence?

Zakharkin – It’s not about confidence. Opponent doesn’t outplay us [big, big sigh], doesn’t move the play into our zone. Does our team look embarrassed recently? No! But we have to admit, we have problems with finishing offensively. Who are the best scorers in our team? Kovalchuk, Ovechkin, Radulov — they don’t play their game. They try not to offend each other and avoid comments about being selfish.

Question – Speaking of Ovechkin…

Zakharkin – Alex, in the games against the Czechs and Finns, was two different players. He progresses fast. In these two days off, Ovechkin will acclimate completely. In the game against Canada, he’ll show his best. We’ll ask for more aggressiveness out of him. Both with and without the puck. Because it’s what he’s good at. And, of course, finishing shots.

Additional Photos

  • Peter

    Oh jeez, Ovi. You make it so tough to love you sometimes.

  • Manda

    I love that Ovi’s representing with his Caps shorts and Zig Techs.

  • Betsy

    @Manda Reebok is happy too

  • He looks as though he’s having fun and getting a some perspective. That will be good …

  • Boys just wanna have fun !

  • Darla

    Certain people on certain message boards keep insisting he’s fat. Where?

  • Pat

    Im surprised i saw that many people wearing shirts!!! I had figured they were outlawed in Russia lol

  • Lu

    Looks like I found some more wallpaper pictures for my computer! Looks like they enjoyed themselves playing some soccer. And why were they using the goals that my son would use???

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  • EeFin

    Oh man. Ovie without a shirt, Alzner golfing.. now all we need is a new cardio boxing video from Nicklas!

    For a reminder, here is the old one:

  • K4

    8th picture down…Sasha Minor in the background? Is that why he was ineffective toward the end?

    EeF: How about Schultz pitching the “Shakeweight”?

  • April

    Good god…the man has a body on him. WOW. O.O

  • CDizz

    Wow, Ovechkin’s lost a good bit of weight.

  • BobbyG

    There’s a soccer game going on, preparing for a hockey match? Oh wait, I didn’t notice. I was too busy and too distracted enjoying the fantastic view of shirtless Ovie. Sometimes the gutter, or the shallow end of the pool, is the best place to be. Thanks for the pick-me-up!

  • Cookie Monster


    Sasha Semin isn’t @ Worlds. Bykov didn’t want him on the team.

  • Marcelo

    I love Ovi, but he is over weight, he was huffing and puffing all year and especially in the playoffs. He needs to train a lot better in this off season. Since when do you win a Cup with your best player being over weight and under practiced and under conditioned? If Ovi keeps this up my fat [Ed: booty] will be able to defend him in the NHL.

  • I was aware of OV’s tramp stamps, but what’s his other tattoo of, the one on his side?

  • Dawn

    The tattoo on Ovi’s side is an homage to his brother Sergei, who died when Alex was 10. “Sergei, you are always in my heart.”

    Wait, I spelled it wrong. He spells his brother’s name “Sergey.”