The Capitol Figure Skating Team got the surprise of a lifetime during their 9:45 to 11:45 am practice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex on Saturday.
Forty-five minutes into their session, a beardy, grey-haired father of two walked out from the hallway where the Capitals locker room is located. He ambled over to what usually is the Capitals’ bench. There, he asked several skaters’ mothers if he could talk to someone in charge.
Emme Porter, head coach of the Capitol figure-skating team, heard the commotion and skated over to see what it was about.
“I was on the ice and they called me over,” Emme, a figure skater and former Capitals’ Red Rocker and coach, said. “I couldn’t believe who it was.”
That grey-haired dad ended up being Capitals’ superstar Alex Ovechkin, weeks removed from scoring a hat trick for his 800th career goal and passing Gordie Howe for second on the NHL’s all-time goals list. Ovechkin was with his two sons Sergei (Ovi Jr.) and Ilya on his day off.
Ovechkin asked politely if the Capitol figure skaters would be willing to share the ice so that he could come out with the kids and practice.
“Of course, I said, ‘yes'” but Emme did have one condition.
“I asked him, ‘He doesn’t need a puck, right?'” Emme recalled laughing, referring to Ovi Jr. “Ovi obliged and said no problem. That’s also when I told him what we were doing there.”
Capitol was first started in March 2021 by three talented high school skaters, Ingrid Knutson, Elise Lady (who is also a hockey player), and Genevieve Kim, and their mothers. The goal was to give local high school skaters an opportunity to figure skate as a team and have competitive fun with their peers. The Capitol team currently has 20 active members from 13 different high schools in the DMV.
“This was our first Team practice at Medstar since our home rink Mt. Vernon Rec Center closed for renovations,” Emme said. The Mt. Vernon facility is expected to be out of commission for two years per Fairfax County as it gets a second NHL-sized ice rink, a two-story fitness center, and pool/building upgrades.
The Capitol team was preparing to travel to Boston on Friday for their first competition of the season. They were also tasked with a virtual challenge, to create and submit a Spirit video, during the practice.
Meanwhile, Ovechkin, rocking a Capitals Fight Cancer hat and an all-black Air Jordan sweatsuit, skated around on the ice while holding his two-year-old son Ilya. Four-year-old Sergei was in full hockey gear that included a mini Ovi Jr Capitals jersey, a Bauer Nexus ADV stick, and ice skates with yellow laces. The 2036 NHL Draft-eligible player practiced his stride and edge work while his dad coached and occasionally texted. Two weeks earlier on the same ice, Ovi Jr had scored two goals on Stanley Cup-winning Darcy Kuemper.
“Some of the Spirit entries will have Ovi and Ovi Jr in the background,” Emme said. “But I personally think having one of the greatest hockey players of all time in the footage should give us extra points.”
One such video was from Warwick Lloyd’s routine. Warwick is one of the team’s graduating seniors and was just accepted to Stanford.
Some of the figure skaters learned during practice that Sergei is beginning to develop similar traits to his dad — such as his competitiveness.
“Ovi Jr is adorable,” Mia Markakos said. “He skated towards me and we ended up racing on the ice from the blue line to the blue line. He clearly won. It was fun to see him out there just having a good time.”
The Ovechkins became such a big part of practice that some of the mothers became worried that Ovechkin’s arm was tiring while holding Ilya and volunteered to try and help.
“My mom asked him if he wanted help watching Ilya while he skated and he told us he was on dad duty for the day and didn’t need help babysitting,” senior Elise Lady said.
“I thought it was funny he told me he ‘had it under control’ when I asked if he wanted help,” Elise’s mom, Rebecca, said laughing.
Elise Lady and the rest of the Capitol team during practice.
“Ovi could not have been nicer and even though the Ovechkin family graciously shares videos of the boys on Instagram, it was cool seeing Ovi with his boys up close,” Elise said. “Great dad, great guy, great player.”
At the end of practice, the Capitol ice skaters asked Ovechkin if he would take a photo with them and he said yes.
“We were so honored that Ovi, spent some time on the ice with us yesterday,” Ingrid Knutson, co-captain of the team, said. “He is a legend and we couldn’t have been more excited to skate with him and his family.”
Ingrid added that she felt regret not challenging him to show off his best double axel.
Ingrid taking a photo at practice.
The team described Ovi’s presence at practice as serendipitous and something that uplifted them as they began trying to adjust away from their normal home.
“I have so many emotions with the closure of the Mt. Vernon rink, and I knew when I saw him that we were in the right place at the right time,” Emme said. “For many of these skaters and myself, we have lost the home rink they’ve known for most of their lives. The rink where they learned to skate and spent so many years.
“Sharing the ice with one of the greatest players of all time is not your regular day at the office,” Emme said. “I loved seeing him with his children, fostering their love of skating and hockey — even on a day off.”
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