On October 4, 2005, “one crazy Russian came to the league,” according to Alex Ovechkin. What followed were countless historic seasons, NHL records being set at a break-neck speed, and a Stanley Cup championship in 2018.
As the Capitals entered this year’s postseason, Ovechkin sat down with Roger Bennett of Men in Blazers to discuss everything from his early NHL days, his durability, and the advice that he’d give to his younger self. Oh, and this: “I’ve never been hangover.”
That means Ovechkin escaped hangovers after his wedding, or the Capitals’ post-Game Five win celebration at Hakkasan, at Nationals Park, or after he swam in the fountains at the Georgetown Waterfront.
We’re dubious, but as they say, “Russian machine never breaks.”
— NHL (@NHL) April 19, 2019
The full transcription of Ovechkin’s interview with Bennett follows below.
Your journey to Stanley Cup glory started a long way away from DC. You were born in Moscow, Russia. Your father a soccer player, your mother two-time Olympic gold medal basketball player. Moscow back then was a tough city. What were the obstacles that you had to overcome?
Alex Ovechkin: When it was ’90s, it was tough life. In Russia, everything was changing and lots of people who I grew up with, they’re not living right now. Maybe in jail. I don’t know.
You used hockey to pull yourself out of a notoriously tough public school, 596. You were playing professionally at Dynamo by the time you were 16. You were the youngest member of the Russian national team by 17. And the Caps took you as number one in the draft overall. When you landed her in DC, Ovi, was it as you imagined it would be from Russia?
Alex Ovechkin: It was a little scary because, you know, no English, no friends–
Just like me.
Alex Ovechkin: Yeah. So, you right now famous. I’m right now playing hockey as well.
October the 4th, 2005, you made your NHL debut against the Columbus Blue Jackets. You were so young. Did you feel any fear?
Alex Ovechkin: When you play hockey you don’t have a fear. As soon as you step on the ice everything goes away and you focusing on the puck, and you focusing on the play.
First shift, and you announce yourself to the NHL like this. [Clip of a huge check by Ovi.] You checked a guy so hard that you broke the plexiglass partition. It’s bone shattering.
Alex Ovechkin: He didn’t expect it, but I was flying over there. I was young, I was crazy. And when you have that strength in your body, I think you have to use it. Have to send a message.
What message did you want to deliver? Not just to the Blue Jackets, Ovi, but to the entire league with that hit?
Alex Ovechkin: One crazy Russian came to the league.
Can you tell me what does it feel like to know that you have a power, almost like a superpower, that you can lay a boneshattering hit on a man and wipe them out. I mean, footballers, they say when they score a goal that feeling, when you ask them to describe it, they say it feels like an orgasm.
Alex Ovechkin: Ooph. Wow. I don’t know.
What does it feel like to deliver that hit?
Alex Ovechkin: I don’t think it’s an orgasm, but I think it’s just a great feeling.
Shortly after you delivered that hit, you only proceeded to score twice in the span of four minutes. Do you remember that first goal? You’ve scored so many since then.
Alex Ovechkin: Yeah, of course!
What did that feel like? Was that relief?
Alex Ovechkin: Yeah, of course it’s a relief. Of course it’s something that you dreams. Especially my parents was there, my brother. It was pretty special.
If you could go back in time, like in a hot tub time machine, what message would you, Ovi today, have for that young Ovi?
Alex Ovechkin: I would probably tell him like didn’t sign 13 years, sign 18 years.
Your next 13 seasons are well chronicled, littered with personal accolades. Last June, you cemented the legacy when you won the trophy you really wanted. The Stanley Cup. Do you feel like a different person, your identity has changed now that you’ve won it?
Alex Ovechkin: Yeah, you feel like a champion.
The Capitals closed the season with a Stanley Cup parade through the streets of DC, which you closed with the proud, motivational words, “We’re not going to be fucking suck this year. We’re the Stanley Cup champions.” I want to talk with you about a feat which I admire for you, as much as your glory, your goals, your hits, your awards. I’m talking about your much publicized, end-of-season celebration. You’re like a Russian Ferris Bueller. For those who didn’t witness it, it all began after Game Five, which just happened to be, in all places, Las Vegas. You advised Caps nation, “get some beers, get some whatever, and start celebrating.” But can you clarify, what are some whatever, Ovi?
Alex Ovechkin: Vodka. Champagne. Whiskey. Whatever.
Then you began to follow your own advice. You carried the Stanley Cup around Hakkasan nightclub. Do you remember any of this?
Alex Ovechkin: Um. No.
You danced with Tiesto until 5am, hoisting the Cup. You looked like a returning hero bringing the head of your former enemy back to your people. From Vegas, you took the Cup to the Nationals ballpark. You threw out the first pitch. Was less a pitch, it was more a breathalyser. High fast ball, just outside straight.
Alex Ovechkin: I’m Russian, you know.
Because following that pitch, you climbed into a bar wearing not one, but two hats. You did a keg stand right out of Lord Stanley. What is the secret to a good keg stand?
Alex Ovechkin: Just drink as much as you can.
The answer is dominate the keg. Next, you saw a fountain on the waterfront.
Alex Ovechkin: That was sick. That was sick moment.
You decided, quite rationally, there’s a fountain, let me jump into it!
Alex Ovechkin: Yeah, it was hot. It was hot.
You looked like a little North American river otter.
Alex Ovechkin: Yeah, we just go out there and celebrate with the fans. We share the happiness together.
Press-ups. Never not training. #NoDaysOff.
Alex Ovechkin: Great memories.
I’ve got to say, when I look at that, I wish that I experienced the joy that you felt in your veins in that moment, for just five seconds in my life.
Alex Ovechkin: You have to play hockey. You have to win the Stanley Cup and then you can do whatever you want.
You returned home for some shuteye and you fell asleep, beautiful photograph, next to your then-pregnant wife. Inquiring minds want to know, Ovi, what is your best hangover cure?
Alex Ovechkin: I’ve never been hangover.
You are just a perfect specimen in every regard. This summer, you took the Stanley Cup back to Russia with you onto the ice at Dynamo club where you started, with your father.
Alex Ovechkin: That’s why you work so hard through all those years. And when I go back to Russia, I came home, it was special moment just for me and for my father.
How hard has it been mentally to go again? And what motivates you now?
Alex Ovechkin: As soon as you taste the victories, you just want to repeat again and again. Back to back.
That’s it. Back to back to back.
Alex Ovechkin: Yeah. To back.
Alex Ovechkin: Yeah.
Fountains of DC, you have been warned.
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) April 15, 2019
— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) April 14, 2019
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