Photo credit: Washington Capitals Instagram
The days leading up to the start of the 2013-14 NHL season have been busy for Alexander Ovechkin. Between training sessions and preseason games, the Washington Capitals’ captain jetted across the ocean to perform his duties as Russia’s first carrier in the Olympic Torch Relay– and somehow managed to top it off with an extensive interview with Pavel Lysenkov of Sovetsky Sport, in which he talked about his dogs, his distinct Twitter style, and why he thinks the Capitals will contend for the Stanley Cup this year.
It seems to the fans that Washington is like King Sisyphus, who is pushing the heavy boulder up the mountain, only to see it roll back down. Alexander, give us at least one reason why the Capitals can win the Stanley Cup this year.
Because we have a squad which wasn’t put together in one or two years. The backbone of the team is settled. Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, and the others – at their peak. Washington always thinks about how to strengthen the team, so we acquired Misha Grabovski, bringing up the youngsters, who are learning. We have a crew now that can be successful.
You came to the club in 2005. Only Brooks Laich still remains from that team. How does it feel to be the Washington’s old guard at 28 years old?
Yes, that is so –Laich and I. I feel great responsibility. And not even because I am the Capitals captain. The leaders must produce results. Here and now.
How should you prepare for the season that includes the Olympics? How can you remain in shape?
The most important is to avoid injuries. You need to come out for every NHL game properly prepared and focused. Then everything will be fine, and we’ll be ready for Sochi.
The fact that you are now in the same division with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Rangers – is that good?
Of course! These teams always attract the attention of the press and the fans. So every game against them will be like a hot pie!
Where are you more comfortable – on the right or left? Are you prepared to play on the right for Sbornaya, like you do for Washington?
For half a season, I played on the right side. I got used to it, and I don’t think our coach Adam Oates will be changing my position. In any case, you shouldn’t be hung up on which wing [you play]. It’s an ordinary adjustment. So far I have not talked to Zinetula Bilyaletdinov about this. But it’s a coaches’ decision – let him play me where ever he wants.
You won the Hart Trophy as the league MVP last year. Can you admit now that the sharp-tongued analyst Mike Milbury became a strong motivation for you?
I wasn’t listening to him at all! I heard some quotes. But if you start reading all the negative and positive press about yourself, you can go crazy. Might as well make an appointment with a neurologist [Ed. note – Ovi might have his MDs crossed; he probably means Psychiatrist] if you are going to pay attention to such stuff.
Have you conducted a propaganda session with Traktor’s forward Evgeny Kuznetsov in order to convince him to come to Washington?
Let it be his decision. I gave him my advice two years ago. In my opinion, he should have left at that time. Kuznetsov would be playing for Washington, growing as a player, and would have a better chance to make it to Sochi. It is no secret that all national teams will be betting on North America – based players. People gain priceless experience in the NHL.
Does it drive you crazy when some reporters pick the date for your wedding and then cancel it?
That’s how the journalists joke. It’s their bread [and butter] to find something amazing. But that is the most ridiculous rumor I heard about myself: Ovechkin canceled his wedding. The stuff people come up with! You will be the first to find out the date. I will personally call and tell you!
Do you tweet by yourself?
Of course I do! Or do you think I bring a secretary with me everywhere?
Why are there so many “hahaha’s”?
That is my style. Now everybody on twitter copies me, they also write hahaha. Do you not like that I am so funny?
Who do you play computer games with? Your buddy Alexander Semin left the Capitals.
I have friends in Washington. The guys come over to my place, we have fun.
Describe a perfect summer day for Ovechkin.
Wake up without an alarm clock, get together with my guys – and relax for the whole day. No making plans. Just drift with the current.
Do you give Maria Kirilenko tennis advice? Joking aside – because you know how to work on your physical fitness.
Yes, I give her tips. But you can ask her whether she follows them.
Is it realistic to think that one day Kirilenko will beat Serena Williams?
Because Williams is a machine.
Even robots can have faults in the system. Most important is not to give up. Search for weaknesses and make them your aces.
The fans write to Maria on Twitter: “Quit tennis! The country needs new Ovechkins!” Do you agree?
Ha-ha, it’s difficult for me to talk about that. We’ll see.
Are you going to fix your tooth after you end your career?
Yes. I promise. As soon as I finish with hockey. Or a little bit earlier.
Why not now?
I am afraid it’s going to be knocked out again. There are lots of examples. Someone I know went to the dentist. Soon after stated eating meat – and the tooth broke. The same one as mine. Can you imagine?
Would you like to try yourself as an actor? Ilya Kovalchuk and Evgeny Malkin already appeared on the big screen.
I have already been in a movie – Shadowboxing.
I can’t recall you in it.
A small role. But you need to find time for the movies, and I am terribly short on it.
Recently you moved from a large house in Washington to a very large. What do you do on a thousand square meters? Play soccer?
It’s so great, I don’t want to leave! Lots of space and light, very comfortable.
Do you have any pets?
I have three dogs In Russia. Two boys – Chuck and Roy. And a girl Gera. She will become a mother soon.
Do you read what the fans write about you on the Internet?
Of course. I go to a site where they aggregate news. I find out people’s opinion. Sometimes it’s really funny how they talk and argue about me.
Is it true you cut your hair in a Chinese barber shop for 8 dollars?
I try to spend money thoughtfully. Although sometimes I buy something, and then say “Darn, why did I do that?”
Then tell me what was your dumbest expense lately.
It is so dumb, I am too embarrassed. If I tell about it to a newspaper, the people will think I lost my mind. But I still remember the time my dad was trying to make ends meet by driving unlicensed cab in the early 90s.
Sergei Fedorov was swindled out of 60 million dollars. It can happen to any player.
In principle, yes. There are no guarantees. Lots of people hang around the famous athletes.
And everybody wants something? Over the years you really filtered down your circle.
With age you begin to understand who’s a good guy and who is trying to do bad things to you. For example: I know a person for a long time. And all of a sudden he says “Pay me this sum every week. You are a millionaire. You can afford it.”
And how did you respond?
I refused of course. I know how hard you need to work for the money. I am not going to just throw the money around.