After Caps Captain Alex Ovechkin surpassed Sergei Federov as the highest-scoring Russian player in NHL history, NHL.com/ru, the NHL’s Russian site, posted an exclusive interview with the Great Eight covering his development as a player, his rivalry with Sidney Crosby, the 2018 Stanley Cup win, and the significance of Ovi’s latest achievement.
Video of the interview and a translation follow after the jump.
Ovi on Growing Up
Alex Ovechkin: Honestly, I love all types of sports. [Soccer,] because while we were growing up, what was there to do except go out in the yard and play. Tag, basketball, [soccer], tennis; we made up our own games, sure. But hockey right away felt close to my heart, you know? It was difficult: my parents didn’t have a lot of time to take me to practice, but, we made it work somehow.
We played in entryways and apartments—for us, hockey came first. Because of that, everybody used to just pick their positions, goalie, forward, defense. And just like that, little by little, we developed, we grew as players. So when we were 15 or 16 and it was time to decide, well, where do we go? Do we keep trying to be athletes? Go to regular school? Or learn to do something else? And of course everyone tried to be a hockey player for as long as possible. For some people it worked out, and for some it didn’t, as usual. I was lucky because I got to the point where I loved this game, I loved pouring my heart into how I play; and that happened during early childhood.
Here, I think everyone gave everything: my neighbors, grandparents, aunts, parents, brothers. Even the teachers in school helped us by moving classes around [to accommodate practice]. That’s why I think my parents played the greatest role in my development as a player, as a person. Especially my dad, because he was always getting me up at six in the morning, getting me to practice, standing around in the cold, watching me play, even though it wasn’t clear how I would turn out. Luck also, played a huge role.
The whole team helped me. Because without the support they gave me, the whole team, the staff, from the owner and the general manager, from absolutely everyone, the people who surrounded me at [the moment I entered the NHL]… I didn’t wait for anything. If I wanted something, all I had to do was speak up in my broken English, and they sort of understood me. I never had any troubles, and I came to them already a developed hockey player. I was young, but I had gone through the [Dynamo] school.
Yeah, it all seemed random, but it came out beautifully. It ended well.
On the Rivalry with Crosby
Alex Ovechkin: Of course there is respect, but at the same time, there’s a lot of animosity, because we each play for teams between which, well, teams that don’t really like each other that much, you could say. From the first day [I came to Washington], everyone, the fans, the press, they were all pushing for it, they all wanted it, this fight. You come into that [atmosphere] and you see it, you begin to adapt to it. And of course over 14 years we’ve played a lot of games against each other. We respect each other. But each of us wants to avoid defeat, to overcome their rival.
Surmounting Federov’s record
Alex Ovechkin: Well of course, that’s among the most important things I’ve achieved. It was hard, it took a long time. I had to overcome all kinds of trials, not even trials, but difficulties, both on the team and in my life. I think it’s the sort of achievement that will follow you for all of history. It’s respectable.
I also think that beating all those wonderful players, legends… it’s pleasant to be there, to be the best.
The way [Federov] played, the way he saw the ice, how he thought about the game, I got just tremendous pleasure [from watching him]. When [Semin], and [Kozlov] and [Federov] and I were together, we took colossal pleasure in that, and when we got to play together, that was just outstanding. [Federov] is one of the best players of all time.
Winning the Cup
Alex Ovechkin: What we went through last year, I think it was the best time not only of my life, but for all of Washington. That feeling you get when you raise the Cup over your head [for the first time], you’ll never get that again. I think the most important victory was to overcome everything we’d been through.
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