Alex Ovechkin just keeps giving us reasons to cherish him.
Tuesday afternoon after Capitals practice, Ovechkin skated with more than 80 special needs hockey players from the American Special Hockey Association (ASHA) at Medstar Capitals Iceplex. The young players were all members of local D.C. area special needs hockey programs, including the Baltimore Saints, Montgomery Cheetahs, Nova Cool Cats, and Washington Ice Dogs.
This has become an annual tradition for Ovechkin, who started volunteering his time with ASHA four years ago. Four years ago, Washington Ice Dogs player Ann Schaab was just ten-years-old and her mother, Melissa Schaab, thought the chance for her daughter to skate with Ovechkin would just be a once in a lifetime opportunity. But Ovechkin formed a special bond with Ann, famously accepting her invitation of a sushi date in 2014.
“Ovi has been gracious enough to constantly think of our players and reach out to us and offer opportunities like this, year after year after year. It’s pretty incredible,” Melissa Schaab said to the Capitals’ Zach Shapiro.
This is the fifth consecutive season that Ovechkin has hosted either a skate or street hockey event for members of ASHA, and according to the organization’s executive director Jen O’Brien, the kids look forward to ‘Ovechkin Day’ every year.
“They’re so excited to be here. But it means something more because it means they feel like they’re a part of the Capitals organization. They feel a part of the team. They feel included. When people think these kids can’t skate, he always believes in them and I think that belief in them it’s retroactive,” said O’Brien to Tom Gulitti of NHL.com.
As for Ovechkin, he said the most exciting thing is sharing the happiness from the young players and their parents, which is something he remembers from when he was growing up playing hockey.
“I was a little kid as well,” Ovechkin said. “When I would meet [pro players] I was the happiest kid in the world. Now I have a chance to help someone smile.”
Ovechkin practiced with the youngsters for an hour, participating in drills, assisting on a few goals, and cheering on the young players.
Photos: American Special Hockey Association
This goalie now has the privilege of being able to say that they made a save on an Ovechkin wrister.
— Darren M. Haynes (@DarrenMHaynes) October 30, 2018
Ovechkin closed out the session with photos, hugs, and autographs. Ovechkin even signed a giant bobblehead version of himself. Hey, we’ve seen that before!
— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) October 30, 2018
Ovechkin also took the time to say hello and meet a Capitals fan, 12 year old Adam Reo. He shook Adam’s hand and gave Adam’s mom a big hug.
If you want to be awesome like Ovi, consider volunteering your time or donating to help the Washington Ice Dogs. The Ice Dogs are currently fundraising to meet their biggest budget need, which is ice time.
We need ice. Ice time is our largest budget item. Every hour of ice is $400. Every weekend is $800. Every month is $3,200. Each season is close to $20,000. Will you help us get our ice? https://t.co/6oun0mWr8o pic.twitter.com/zgCntxxTNL
— Washington Ice Dogs (@IceDogsSHW) October 14, 2018
Headline photo: Tom Gulitti
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