Alex Ovechkin is a future Hall of Fame hockey player and a deft, multi-millionaire businessman who carefully considers every move he makes. Behind the scenes, Ovechkin still has his silly, immature moments — sometimes solving complex problems like a giggly teenager.
For example, Ovechkin created a stir for one Russian sports social media account this summer when his Capitals equipment bag was discovered inside the locker room for Alex Semin’s retirement game.
Nearly everything about Ovechkin’s bag is normal, boring, and what you’d expect. It’s red. It has blue and white stripes. There are Capitals and NHL logos on the printed label. There’s just one tiny thing about it that doesn’t compute.
Let’s see if you can notice.
Ovechkin’s equipment bag is labeled for a Capitals player who wears number 69, not number eight.
The social media account that took the video, @skolzkyled, is nicknamed Slippery Ice. It’s contributors include Denis Kazansky, Petr Kuznetsov, Maxim Goncharov, and former Capital Andrei Nikolishin.
This wasn’t the only time Ovechkin’s exceptionally nice equipment bag made an appearance this summer on social media. As Dmitry Orlov got ready to play in Artemi Panarin’s charity hockey game in late July, the Capitals defenseman took a video inside the locker room. There, Ovechkin can be seen sitting in front of his equipement bag.
And yes, I will gladly enhance the screenshot for you.
The reason why Ovechkin rocks no. 69 on his bag is part joke, part security, and maybe, just maybe part tribute(?). As reported by former Capitals beat writer Alex Prewitt, Ovechkin once had gear stolen out of his bag at an airport. So a decision was made to axe using the number eight on his bags in the future to avoid having fans take his gear and or try to make money with it on the secondary market.
The number 69 is rarely worn in the NHL and typically has been associated with goons or minor leaguers whose prospects of playing in the NHL full-time are unlikely.
The only player to wear number 69 for the Capitals was Mel Angelstad in 2004.
“The reason I wore 69 was simple,” Angelstad said to RMNB when we first wrote about Ovechkin’s unique equipment bag in 2017. “The worse you are in camp, the higher the number you wear, unless you’re on the team and have an assigned number. So this should illustrate just how lofty my skills were.”
When I told Angelstad, now a firefighter and paramedic in Alberta, Canada, about Ovechkin’s bag, he laughed.
“I helped get him there with my horrible play!” he quipped.
Judging by the date of publication of Prewitt’s story, Ovechkin’s bag number changing to 69 happened sometime during or before the 2015-16 season. There are obvious jokey and serious NHL player skill reasons why Ovi would go with the six nine. But perhaps there was another angle too: a tribute/inside joke towards his longtime centerman Nicklas Backstrom.
Here’s a possible rationale. During the NHL lockout in 2012, Nicklas Backstrom opted to play in Russia with Alex Ovechkin on Dynamo Moscow. Backstrom was given the number 99 by the team when he first arrived, a clear faux pas towards Wayne Gretzky whose number is retired by every team in the NHL. When Backstrom asked for a new digit, he was given no. 69 by the team.
Whatever the full context behind Ovechkin’s bag, this is one of my favorite hockey-related details about the Capitals captain – along with his laces that must be yellow, the perfect tape jobs of his sticks, and his tinted visors that made Martin Brodeur so mad they were outlawed by the NHL.
The Great Eight? Moar like The Divine Sixty-Nine.
Geez, I hope my parents don’t read this.
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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