Ilya Kovalchuk spoke to the DC media for the first time since becoming a Capital, Tuesday. After completing his first morning skate with the team, Kovalchuk spoke to the media and revealed just how long he’s hoped to play with close friend Alex Ovechkin in the NHL. The two players have played together on Russian national teams (Olympics, World Championships), but never on the same KHL or NHL team.
“Since we were 13-years-old,” Kovalchuk said. “We play together on national team, but never for the same team. Usually, we battle against each other. It’s always nice when you’re a little older to get a chance to play together, for sure.”
The day after Christmas, the two players had a drink together near Miami where both owned property. Kovalchuk was a free agent then after being let go by the Los Angeles Kings. “Of course we joke a little bit (about playing on the same team), but at that point, I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not — lots of issues with the salary cap or the rosters,” Ovechkin said. “I’m not a GM. I can’t make a decision.”
Two months later, when Brian MacLellan broached a Kovalchuk trade to Ovechkin, the Capitals captain encouraged the GM to make the move. “I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it! If we can take him, why not?'”
The two players shared multiple laughs during practice and were caught on camera smiling and talking to each other.
He’s “an overall great person, tremendous teammate, and a great player. He’s going to help us to get where we want,” Ovechkin said.
“I can’t wait to start tonight,” Kovalchuk said, who will line up as the third-line right-wing. “If I play well, I might become the first-line player,” he said smiling.
Transcriptions of the two players’ interviews after the morning skate are below.
What are your initial thoughts about being a Capital?
Ilya Kovalchuk: “Nice. It’s great. A lot of familiar faces, obviously. I can’t wait to start tonight.”
How did Alex first find out about the trade?
Ilya Kovalchuk: “I actually called him or text him (Sunday night) after it happened because I knew Ovi, if I would tell him some insight then you guys would know it. Just kidding.”
What about the Capitals is most appealing to you?
Ilya Kovalchuk: “Obviously it’s a great team. Very offensive-minded. I like the way the team play when I play against them like two days before I get traded or a week or so. It’s nice. The team is one of the top division teams. Have a great chance to do something special.”
How long have you and Alex talked about playing with each other?
Ilya Kovalchuk: “Since we were 13-years-old. We play together on national team, but never for the same team. Usually we battle against each other. It’s always nice when you’re a little older to get a chance to play together, for sure.”
What was the phone conversation like with Ovi on Sunday night?
Ilya Kovalchuk: “Nice. Was fun. Actually, they were all together — the Russians from this team. They were excited. I was excited. They said I should fly right away. I said, ‘No, no. I need to take my time to pack and stuff.’”
You’ve had an unorthodox season between the Kings and Canadiens. How do you feel about the stretch run?
Ilya Kovalchuk: “I think after the New Year’s it was really positive. I have time in Montreal. That was one of the best decisions in my hockey life to go there. Now I have a chance to play for a contender. It’s great opportunity.”
What were your thoughts two years ago when you watched Alex Ovechkin win the Stanley Cup?
Ilya Kovalchuk: “I was one of the first who called. I think all our country was happy for him and Russian guys. Obviously, Capitals popular team in Russia. It was a lot of excitement there.”
Was him winning the Cup one of the reasons why you wanted to come back to the NHL?
Ilya Kovalchuk: “Yeah. That was one of the reasons. I’m going to keep trying and pushing and I think we have all the tools here. It’s all in our hands to work hard to get together as a team, as a group, play well in playoffs.”
You had a big role in Montreal. Here you’re going to be a third-line player.
Ilya Kovalchuk: “We’ll see. It’s all depends on how I play. If I play well, I might become the first-line player. I don’t know.”
Well, what do you think of the new guy?
Alex Ovechkin: “Obviously, I’m excited for him, I’m excited for the opportunity. He’s a good fit for our team. He brings some depth. He brings lots of options too to play with. It’s good.”
How long have you guys been talking about maybe playing together at some point?
Alex Ovechkin: “You never know what’s going to happen. Yeah, Some times in the summer, it would be nice if you’re going to one day be on the Washington Capitals team. With the salary cap and all those different things, it’s [tough].”
There was a picture on your Instagram around Christmas where you were having dinner with him. Did you talk about it then?
Alex Ovechkin: “No. Of course we joke a little bit, but at that point, I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not — lots of issues with the salary cap or the rosters. I’m not a GM. I can’t make a decision. But I’m happy! I’m happy for him and for us as well.”
When general manager Brian MacLellan asked you about the idea what was your reaction?
Alex Ovechkin: “I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it! If we can take him, why not?'”
Did you have dinner with him last night?
Alex Ovechkin: “Yeah.”
You’ve played together before.
Alex Ovechkin: “Yeah, we played on different national teams all the time, and the World Championships. For him, I know him as an overall great person, tremendous teammate, and a great player. He’s going to help us to get where we want. He’s happy and he’s excited.”
He’s a little bit older than you. He’s been the captain of Team Russia. Is he like an older brother to you?
Alex Ovechkin: “I know him almost when I was 14, maybe 13. Since then, we always support each other. It doesn’t matter where he play, where I play.”
How does it feel to be getting ready to be the father of two?
Alex Ovechkin: “It’s great. More kids and more fun!”
Headline photo courtesy of the @Capitals
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