At 9:34 AM on Saturday, Alex Ovechkin welcomed his first son into the world. Along with that welcome came the announcement that he, and wife Nastya Ovechkina, had named their son after Ovechkin’s late brother, Sergei.
During Ovechkin’s exit interview, following the Capitals’ Stanley Cup win, RMNB’s Ian Oland jokingly asked whether the name Stanislav, the Russian equivalent of Stanley, would be on the list should the couple have a son. “If a boy?” Ovechkin replied, trying not to give anything away. “Probably not.” He smiled and laughed.
Ovechkin naming his son after his late brother should come as little surprise. Sergei’s influence on Ovechkin’s choice to pursue hockey has been well-documented, though Ovi has only spoken sparingly about the subject over the years.
When Ovechkin was only 10-years-old, while he was competing at a hockey tournament, Sergei was involved in a car accident. Two days later, he died due to a blood clot.
“It was a tough moment, it was a tough moment for my parents, but it is what it is,” Ovechkin said, after visiting Sergei’s grave in Moscow, during his Cup day. “You can’t take time back. You can’t change time so we just move forward. But I think it was very important for me personally because he’s the guy who, he’s my brother obviously. You can’t change it, but he motivated me to play hard and I gave what I can on the ice.”
And here is Ovechkin talking about if he expected the reaction he got in Red Square and why it was important for him to bring the Cup to his brother’s grave. pic.twitter.com/QINhZNS0wF
— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) July 9, 2018
Ovechkin has always tried to pay tribute to his brother, whenever possible, over the course of his 13-year career in the NHL. Stitched into his gloves, in Cyrillic, are Sergei’s name on the left, Ovechkin on the right.
After each tally that Ovi notches, he kisses his glove and points skyward, in thanks to his brother.
“I’m pretty sure he’s proud of me right now looking at me from upstairs,” Ovechkin told Graham Bensinger, during an interview on his show. “If that kind of situation happen, if he be here right now, I don’t know if I’m gonna be a hockey player or not. So I don’t know what’s going to happen if he be alive. Maybe I’m not a hockey player.”
But at the time when Sergei passed in 1996, Ovechkin was a youth hockey player, and was set to play a game the very next day. His parents took him to the rink, and he suited up for that game, hoping that it would serve as a distraction.
“It was hard, I was crying. I remember I was crying that day,” Ovechkin said to Bensinger. “I was on the bench, I was crying. But my shift, my coach said okay, go play. And I played and I was crying. It was hard but at 10 years old, you obviously [don’t] realize what’s happening. It was a hard moment for my mom and dad, for all my family because oldest son passed away. It was a hard time.”
Though the death of his brother was, undoubtedly, a difficult time in Ovechkin’s life, it likely galvanized his deep desire to succeed in his hockey career. With a Stanley Cup to his name, there is little argument now that he is one of the greatest players of all time.
“[His death] motivates me to be more in the right way than the bad way,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s hockey or something else, I have to be successful.”
Now, his son, Sergei Aleksandrovich Ovechkin, will serve as one more tribute to a man who blazed the path that Ovechkin’s life started down. It is a way to carry on that legacy, and to give thanks to a brother who impacted him in such a powerful way.
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Headline photo: Drew Hallowell
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