He’s internationally known from Vladivostok to Vancouver, he’s a player owner Ted Leonsis has called a “once in a generation player,” and if you ask former Capitals Jeff Halpern and Dale Hunter they’ll tell you he’s the best player in the world. We expect many more milestones for Alexander Ovechkin who earned one today, being named Capitals team captain.
There are many reasons this makes sense. If you heard the late Dave Fay tell it, “Ovechkin is a truly magical player on the ice, a creative thougtful individual who cannot wait to share his triumphs with teammates, a player who seems destined to lead his club to lofty heights with his passion for the game and devotion to it.”
Just how devoted is Ovechkin? Well this story that Ted Leonsis told me when I interviewed him should tell you a lot.
“The beginning of last season he (Alex) showed up early to the office before the veterans are supposed to report, and the rookies were practicing, and he came in the second day and said to Bruce, ‘I want to play with them, I’m here, I’ll play with them.’ So here’s Alex Ovechkin the reigning MVP playing, playing his butt off with a bunch of undrafted rookies. Two days later our rookies are playing the Flyers rookies at a 3 o’clock game, and Alex came in the morning and skated, and he comes back and he watches our rookies play the Flyers rookies. And we beat them 7-1. Alex Ovechkin is a rink rat! He came to our rink to watch our rookies play the Flyers rookies! Then a week later we have our first exhibition game, and he plays in it. And then the next day we have a practice and then the team takes a bus to Philadelphia to play the next night in Philadelphia, and the coach says to Alex, ‘you’re not playing. You’re not going to Philadelphia. There’s no need for you to play back-to-back games, and play an exhibition game in Philadelphia.’ So the bus leaves with the players, and I’m home that night and George McPhee calls me and says, ‘you won’t believe this but Alex and his brother drove to Philadelphia on their own to watch the team.
Do you know any other superstars in any other major sport that would volunteer to play with rookies before veterans were required to report? Do you know any other player who would travel on his own to watch a meaningless exhibition game after being told he wasn’t playing? If Alex isn’t the only guy who would do these things, he has very few peers.
More than any else, I think the words of Gordie Howe define the respect Alex has for the game, and why he will make such a fine leader of men. Said Howe upon meeting Ovechkin, “There’s 18 guys sitting down and he’s the only one who jumped up to shake my hand,” Howe said. “He shows respect for the older players.
A world-class talent and a world class attitude. Even at only the age of 24, we don’t know how you could ever say Alex isn’t ready.