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Russia, U.S.: An Overview of Alexander Ovechkin's NHL Career

RuNet Echo This post is part of RuNet Echo, a Global Voices project to interpret the Russian language internet. All Posts · Learn more

Alexander Ovechkin is a Russian-born NHL hockey player who is surrounded by controversy due to his aggressive style of play, but who remains in the public spotlight because of his talent and pure sensationalism.

At the age of 26, Mr. Ovechkin is the only player ever named to the 1st NHL All-Star team in each of his first five seasons. He's also the only player ever to have received the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring points, the Maurice Richard Trophy, which is given to the league's leading goal scorer, the Lester B. Pearson Award, which is given to the NHL Players Association most outstanding player, and the Hart Memorial Trophy, which is the Professional Hockey Writers’ pick as the league's most valuable player – as well as win all four in a single season.

Alex Ovechkin addresses the crowd in front of the Wilson Building in Washington DC after receiving the key to the city in honor of his winning the NHL's Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP for the 2007–2008 season. He has just said, "Everybody have fun. No speed limit today." Photo by 1995hoo - June 13, 2008 (CC BY-SA 3.0; Wikimedia Commons)

Alex Ovechkin addresses the crowd in front of the Wilson Building in Washington DC after receiving the key to the city in honor of his winning the NHL's Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP for the 2007–2008 season. He has just said, "Everybody have fun. No speed limit today." Photo by 1995hoo – June 13, 2008 (CC BY-SA 3.0; Wikimedia Commons)

Although he was the first overall selection in the 2004 NHL draft, due to the NHL lockout during the 2004-2005 season, it was not until October 2005 that Mr. Ovechkin scored two goals in his first game for the Capitals in their 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Less than two years later, in January 2007, Yahoo Sports Blog announced that Mr. Ovechkin had been named team captain:

And enough with the talk of him not accepting it a few years ago because of his poor command of English. Ovechkin himself confirmed it Tuesday that he just wanted to get more NHL experience and earn the respect of his peers and teammates before accepting the honor. Becoming the sixth Russian captain in NHL history, Ovechkin will try to be the first to actually win the Cup. Until recently Don Cherry's myth that a team can't win a Stanley Cup with a European captain was alive and well. Not anymore [...].

The post went on to quote Ilya Kovalchuk, the only other Russian who was at that time serving as a Captain of an NHL team:

I would like to congratulate Alex on being named captain. He is a great player and a leader of their team, so I think he is a great choice and deserves to be their captain. I am proud that another Russian is getting this honor.

After his rookie contract ended in 2008, Mr. Ovechkin signed a 13-year deal with the Washington Capitals worth $124 million – the most lucrative in NHL history. In an April 2008 post on his Russian-language LiveJournal blog (now dormant), Mr. Ovechkin discussed the contract along with how his NHL career would affect his participation on the Russian National Team:

Another popular question – the [Russian] National Team. I've already agreed to play, as long as it does not conflict with Cup games. [...]

[...] A 13-year contract – it's excellent! I play for Washington and I want to do this in the future, I want to keep winning with this club, and [me getting tired of it is out of question]. After all, there are many players who play for a single club throughout their careers.

A year later, in March 2009, Yahoo Sports Blog captured the controversy surrounding Mr. Ovechkin in a post entitled “Ovechkin's ‘stick on fire’ goal celebration ticks off coaches”:

Faced with recent criticism about his boundless enthusiasm by both Canadian blowhard Don Cherry and arch rival Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Alexander Ovechkin did the punk rock thing tonight and celebrated his 50th goal with the theatrics of an NFL touchdown celebration.

Ovechkin's first-period goal in Tampa Bay gave him the third 50-goal season of his young career; and to celebrate, he dropped his stick to the ice and treated it like it was made of lava.

The post went on to provide Head Coach Bruce Boudreau's reaction to the incident:

“We had a little talk,” he said. “I won't say what we talked about, but we talked.”

After a pause, Boudreau added: “It's the first and only time I've seen that happen in all the time I've been watching Alex. I've never seen him do a celebration like that. But I don't expect it to happen again.”

Russian Machine Never Breaks Blog posted last fall that Mr. Ovechkin had become the second NHL player ever to be immortalized by Madame Tussauds Wax Museum:

Alex Ovechkin, sporting 10 stitches on his forehead after taking an errant puck to the face during Caps practice, traveled into DC this afternoon to celebrate his new wax immortality.

Surrounded by children from the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, who were all rocking The Great 8′s signature gap-toothed smile, Ovechkin unveiled the figure to a horde of media and a few hundred passersby. To the surprise of no one, the wax figure’s resemblance to the Capitals captain is uncanny.

And rightly so. Ovechkin spent hours over the summer allowing studio artists from Madame Tussauds to take more than 250 precise measurements and photographs, capturing the two-time MVP from every angle. The artists then began work on the figure in early July and finished it just a few weeks ago. Ovi donated his Capitals uniform, pads and equipment – in which the figure is dressed – to ensure its authenticity.

ESPN Blog quoted Madame Tussauds Washington DC's General Manager Dan Rogoski as he paid tribute to Mr. Ovechkin:

Alex Ovechkin is a tremendous athlete who has captivated hockey fans not only in the Washington D.C. area, but across the nation as well,” Madame Tussauds Washington D.C. general manager Dan Rogoski said Monday in a statement. “We are honored to add a figure of Alex to our roster of sports icons and know our guests will enjoy interacting and lining up alongside him for photos in our Sports Zone.

And then last month Mr. Ovechkin was suspended for three games as a result of his hit on Pittsburgh’s Zbynek Michalek. ESPN blog included analysis of validity of the suspension in their Daily Debate between Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun.

Burnside:

This is the fifth suspension/fine for reckless behavior Ovechkin has incurred in his career or roughly one a year. I didn’t like the hit. [...]

Well, hard to imagine that three games is anything more than an extended All-Star break for Ovechkin. [...] You know what might have made an impact? A 10-game stint on the sidelines. Time to start making both teams and players pay for their dangerous work.

LeBrun:

Ten games? That is crazy. I actually think that hit didn’t warrant more than one game, but Ovechkin got three because of his two prior suspensions and two prior fines. [...]

In light of his suspension, Mr. Ovechkin decided not to attend this year's NHL All Star game. The Washington Post Blog quoted Mr. Ovechkin:

“My heart is not there. I got suspended, so why I have to go there?” Ovechkin said. “I love the game, it’s a great event, I love to be there but I’m suspended.” [...]

[...] “My game is play physical, my game is play hard, and I don’t think it was bad hit, dirty hit. Yeah, I jumped, but he don’t get hurt. I don’t get two minutes. I don’t think it was three-game suspension.” [...]

Dmitry Chesnokov translated a 2009 article from SovSport.ru for Yahoo Blog, where Mr. Ovechkin articulated the real meaning of controversy:

I do not get angry with criticism. It's a good thing. If you are talked about, that means that you are liked and respected. But not in an ordinary form.

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