Alex Ovechkin sold the most jerseys in the NHL in 2021 as fans’ respect for the superstar reached unprecedented levels. Ovechkin felt like a historic figure — one of the greatest players of all time — as he began a legitimate chase of Wayne Gretzky’s goals record. Now with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine happening, Ovechkin’s popularity around the league appears to be waning due to his relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
One of the most telling examples of how things have changed came on Saturday when the Columbus Blue Jackets retired Rick Nash’s number 61 in an emotional ceremony at Nationwide Arena. Ovechkin contributed a video congratulating Nash. The two rivals battled for the Richard Trophy several times during their career and also played on All-Star teams together.
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) March 6, 2022
“Hey, Rick. Congrats on your retirement. Huge honor. Number 61 is going to be in Columbus forever,” Ovechkin said.
According to The Hockey Writer’s Mark Scheig, Ovechkin was booed by the Blue Jackets crowd. The video aired on the jumbotron during a commercial break.
Marc-Andre Fleury with words for Rick Nash tonight. Alex Ovechkin also. Ovechkin booed. #CBJ
— Mark Scheig (@markscheig) March 6, 2022
Another Blue Jackets fan on Twitter described Ovechkin as being “roundly booed“.
Back home in DC, Ovechkin has not appeared to have much blowback from Capitals fans — though some flags and signs have been brought into the stands for warmups at Capital One Arena. No boos have been picked up on telecasts and Ovechkin has been loudly cheered by the crowd — even having his name chanted by Capitals supporters after scoring goals in consecutive games last week.
But Ovechkin’s reception on the team’s upcoming Canadian road trip may be frosty. Cities that typically adored him — like Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver — could boo him.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Canada is home to nearly 1.4 million people of Ukrainian origin. It’s the largest population of Ukrainians in the world outside of Ukraine and Russia.
ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski wondered if Ovechkin would be booed every time he touches the puck and linked to a story from 2003 where Montreal Canadiens fans booed the US national anthem during a game against the Islanders due to a US-led war in Iraq.
I was wondering if all of this leads to Alex Ovechkin being booed every time he touches the puck on the road, where the Capitals will be next week. And I stumbled across this, which I had forgotten about: https://t.co/G6szHubtdY
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) March 1, 2022
Washington’s next game is Tuesday against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. We shall see then.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB