Springfield, VA — As I made small talk with two local reporters and RMNB staff member Cara Bahniuk in a sprawling lockerroom at The St. James — a new 450,000-square-foot sports and active entertainment facility in Northern Virginia which features two hockey rinks — a smell of fresh paint filled the room. Minutes later, after playing hockey with two youth teams, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin poked his head inside to see who would grill him. His presence electrified the stuffy room.
“RMNB here!” Ovechkin, a founding member of the complex, said with his trademark gap-toothed smile. His eyes then darted down to a championship bucket I brought him as a gift before he ducked his way back into the adjoining room for media interviews.
That afternoon, sick as a dog, I had driven 90 minutes from Frederick, Maryland, believing I’d be one of a dozen reporters there and just hoped to ask one question in a scrum. Instead, I’d get my first one-on-one ever with the guy who inspired the name of our blog nine years prior. The chat ended up being two thirty-somethings, one year apart in age, talking about becoming fathers for the first time. And oh yeah, the Stanley Cup.
Ovi, what have you thought of The St. James so far and what do you think of this facility?
Alex Ovechkin: “It’s unbelievable. Last time I was here it was nothing and now it’s a huge place. I just saw two ice rinks and it’s incredible.”
I want to ask you about your son. When did you first find out that he was gonna be a boy?
Alex Ovechkin: “We find out probably about two or three or four months. Because me and Nastya want to know right away who was gonna be. I’m happy it’s a boy.”
When I first found out about my son I cried when I saw him on the sonogram. What was your reaction when you first saw him?
Alex Ovechkin: “I didn’t cry, but I was happy, you know? I was crying when [Nastya] delivered, but it’s natural emotion. You don’t think you’re not gonna do it, but it just goes automatic. Most important thing is he’s healthy, everybody’s healthy, and everything is fine.”
Have you slept well since he’s arrived?
Alex Ovechkin: “Oh yeah. Nastya is doing great job to keep baby away at night and we getting nanny–plus my mom’s here. Right now the season start, have to be in good shape, sleep well. Son understands he needs to be.” [Shrugs]
Are you really excited for the season–Sergei Shumakov is on his way today right?
Alex Ovechkin: “Yeah. Goose (Ovechkin’s friend Gus) picking him up from the airport. I’m very excited, yeah. Of course we lost a couple key guys, but it’s a business. How I said yesterday, you don’t know what to expect, maybe you gonna be traded one day and you gonna be on different team. It sucks when players, good people left. It is what it is.”
So your first summer as a Stanley Cup champion, having your own Stanley Cup day. I know you waited 13 years to actually do that, you gave the Cup to your dad. How amazing of an experience was that? Because I wasn’t there in Russia with you.
Alex Ovechkin: “Oh that’s too bad, you should talk to Sergey (Capitals PR) about that!”
Alex Ovechkin: “Yeah, it was pretty cool. Those two days I spent with the Cup, shared with my family and friends. People who– some have see it because lots of people bring it back –Malkin I know bring it back to Moscow. The day was special, all the scenario that we would’ve thought it was gonna be, it was tremendous. And the World Cup was ten thousand people, we spent like whole hours to make it quick, quick, quick because lots of people want to see it, but unfortunately we don’t have lots of time to share the Cup.
What did you think about the Cup stand stuff? You know, you invented that, and then later in the summer the rim of the Cup started to get warped a little bit.
Alex Ovechkin: “Poor Cup, I tell you that. Wake up in different positions, different situations, but–the most important thing is he’s safe. We just enjoyed it. How you said, me and Backy, Beags, have been waiting so long to get a chance to raise the Cup, spend time with it and just enjoy it. We have lots of photos, videos. It’s just a tremendous honor to be a Stanley Cup champion.”
Last thing I wanted to ask you is you came up with the motto for the season.
Alex Ovechkin: “Back to back, we not gonna be suck? Yeah I think people asked me, what’s next one? And I think this is it. We’re gonna be Stanley Cup champions this year and we want to be next year as well. I think the guys are ready, everybody in good shape, everybody excited about the season, gonna do our best.”
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk
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