Who would have ever thought that one of the most beloved people in Washington D.C. was Russian? Alexander Ovechkin has certainly changed the culture in the Nation’s Capital, and he has taken the Washington Capitals franchise to levels of popularity and anticipation that seemed to be only very high like once in the forty-two years the team has been in existence.
He not only changed the complexion of hockey in D.C., but also the entire game with his incredible athleticism, his physicality at the forward position, his amazing scoring ability, and the overall excitement he brings to the rink at home and away. I think by now we all know what’s missing though. No? Well it’s that big trophy players occasionally eat cereal out of and baptize their kids in or whatever. Where I’m going with this is that each player who is on the team that wins the Stanley Cup gets to spend a day with the coveted and massive award. Ovechkin has yet to have some alone time with the cup, but my guess if – or when – it happens, vodka may be involved.
Through all the missing teeth, disheveled hair, bad commercial acting, and lovable antics with teammates, the media, and local DMV residents, the perennial All-Star has built the Capitals since 2004 (even when he didn’t get a chance to play) and has provided more hope in the last 13 years than Obama did in his eight – unfortunately, both with similar results. Ovechkin has developed plenty of relationships and rivalries along the way and has become one of the most followed players in the world. It’s seriously really difficult not to love the guy (unless you live in Pittsburgh, New York, or Philadelphia amongst others... probably).
15 LOVED: DONALD BRASHEAR
For those of you not familiar with hockey, sorry you got lost on the internet and came across this article somehow. Thanks for the views, but since you’re here, you may as well learn something new. You’re obviously bored. For those familiar with hockey, welcome back. Hockey teams like to have what they call an enforcer on the squad, a dedicated tough guy, a goon. Donald Brashear was that guy for the Washington Capitals from 2006-2009, serving as protection for his little buddy, Alexander Ovechkin. Ovi isn’t a small dude, that just shows how big Brashear is (6’ 3”, 240) – and to prove his role on the team, he only had four total points his last season in Washington. He was a fan and team favorite during his stint with the Capitals, but left the team for the New York Rangers after Washington failed to re-sign the enforcer, but he never went after Ovechkin when the teams met. Brashear eventually joined MMA, something he probably should of done years before because he knocked his first opponent out in 21 seconds.
14 HATED: CHRIS CLARK
This is a tough call for someone who hated Alexander Ovechkin. Chris Clark played for the Washington Capitals from 2005-2009, and when he joined the team it was Ovi’s first season as the face of the franchise. Clark was a veteran presence and named the captain just a year after starting his stint with the Capitals. It was perfect timing for both to join the team because Clark could take Ovechkin under his wing and show the young sharp-shooter the way. The plan worked as the team developed into a solid squad quickly, making the playoffs and really never looking back from 2007. With Ovechkin by his side, Clark had career numbers, but who was helping whom? Eventually, Ovi was named the captain after Clark was traded so the relationship was bittersweet. He was used, and then his status was stripped and given to the very player he mentored. It’s all politics in the district.
13 LOVED: SEMYON VARLAMOV
This is a sensitive subject – not because we’re talking about the love between two men, but because we’re talking about Russians in Washington, D.C. Plus, Sportscenter didn’t help us trust the world power and their athletes after they released a commercial featuring Semyon Varlamov and Alexander Ovechkin as spies fiddling through the office files. It’s a funny bit, but how true is it? Hmm… Anyway, it was all in good fun and everyone trusts Russia now. Except for that whole Olympic doping thing, and Vladimer Putin, and nuclear weapons, but besides all that, what’s not to love? They have great hockey players. From 2008-2011 Varlamov became a household name in Washington and provided as much excitement in net as Ovi did skating around the ice. However, he was never offered a consistent chance and was eventually traded to the Colorado Avalanche where he is now building a very solid career as their starter.
12 HATED: SERGEI FEDOROV
Here’s another situation where hate is such a strong word. Sergei Fedorov didn’t join the Washington Capitals in order to provide Alexander Ovechkin more tutelage. It was 2008 and the young sensation was already taking the league by storm. Fedorov was acquired by the Capitals for experience and for the veteran star to add another record to his decorated career: becoming the all-time leader in goals scored by a Russian-born player. Guess who eventually passed Sergei. Ovi, of course! During Fedorov’s time in D.C. he was labeled the leader of the team by Ovechkin after a thrilling playoff victory over the New York Rangers. Was it motivation for a captain to call someone else a leader? Was it sarcastic? Was Fedorov just showing Ovechkin that he still reigned as the best Russian? I doubt it, but I hear they’re part of a stubborn culture. All jokes aside (what jokes – this isn’t a funny article), Fedorov is one of the best players to ever skate on the planet, an all-around threat that Ovechkin admired, but that doesn’t mean a little envy wasn't involved.
11 LOVED: BRADEN HOLTBY
This goes back to our Chris Clark dilemma: who makes who better? Some may claim Alexander Ovechkin makes Braden Holtby’s job easier because the forward has been playing longer and has more experience. Others (most likely goalies and defenders) believe that with Holtby in the net, Ovi’s play has become more relaxed and he doesn’t feel like the team’s success rests solely on his shoulders anymore. With that being said, neither has hoisted the Stanley Cup still – and with that being said, the time is inching closer to triumph finally finding the Washington Capitals (knock on wood, Caps’ fans). I believe the window is closing, but the 2016 Vezina winner is keeping it open for Ovechkin a little longer than expected it seems. They have become great teammates on opposite ends of the ice, both decorated with top NHL awards, and both with furious eyes on the ultimate goal. Well, prize for Holtby, he doesn’t want to hear anything about goals.
10 HATED: ERIC FEHR
What’s so bad about being a first-round draft choice by a team ready to rebuild, putting a lot of faith in you as a player and giving you a golden opportunity to turn the franchise around? Nothing, unless you were drafted the year before Alexander Ovechkin. You know what else sucks? Quickly being outperformed and being sent back to the minors after your chance while Ovechkin flourishes. Ugh. Eric Fehr was drafted in 2003, Ovi in 2004, and neither were able to play on the team until 2005 after the lockout. We all know how Ovechkin panned out – and if not, then I’m glad you non-hockey fans have stuck around this far into the post so far – but Fehr had an up-and-down career with the Capitals until being traded to the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, and is now a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sure, he must be bitter his opportunity took a backseat to the development of Ovechkin, but guess who is now a Stanley Cup champion? Fehr is fairing just fine.
9 LOVED: T.J. OSHIE
T.J. Oshie has a very attractive wife, as does Alexander Ovechkin (fiancée to be exact) so they have that bond going for them already. Oshie joined the Washington Capitals from the St. Louis Blues via a 2015 trade. In his first season with Washington, he was placed on Ovechkin’s line and ended up setting a career high in goals – not bad I guess – and the Capitals earned the President’s Trophy for best league record during the 2015-2016 regular season. The two are meshing well and only getting better, and with Nicklas Backstrom dishing the puck to both, everything is clicking on all cylinders for the Capitals. The greatest compliment to Oshie is that he understood his role when he arrived in Washington and stardom was never meant to be transferred from one exciting player to the next; it was just supposed to increase in volume which it has. The relationship seems to be working so far; I hope their hot partners aren’t jealous.
8 HATED: SIDNEY CROSBY
Wait? They aren’t on the same team! Isn’t Sidney Crosby Alexander Ovechkin’s arch nemesis? You would think, but you’re wrong. The top hated man (#2 overall) is probably more of an enemy than you would initially believe – don’t skip ahead! Crosby and Ovechkin will always be in the same conversation when it comes to generational hockey because the two superstars entered the league around the same time. They will always be compared, their matchups will always be covered, and Crosby’s postseason success will always loom over Ovi’s disappointing early exits. Rivalries are excruciating! So what does this have to do with them being teammates? Will it happen in the future? In a way… it’s because they’re both perennial All-Stars. Case and point: the Metro Division won the 2017 NHL All-Star Game with Crosby and Ovechkin on the same line. However, it’s all for show because it’s bad blood when the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals meet.
7 LOVED: MIKE GREEN
Mike Green was a cool Washington Capital, that’s for sure. The fans loved him, he was gritty, and he was a great offensive defenseman (that doesn't make sense though). The Capitals have been known over the decades for their great defenseman whether that was Rod Langway, Scott Stevens, Sergei Gonchar, Green, or currently John Carlson. Green was the catalyst in the back and he developed with Alexander Ovechkin, having great symmetry on the ice. They were both part of the young Capitals’ core that started to dominate the league, but Washington fans really loved his hairstyle while he was in D.C. That would be pathetic if that was true; he was a good player and a good teammate, but decided to take his talents to Hockey Town in free agency after spending a decade in Washington. It was a sad day to see him go, but his time was appreciated by the fans and his teammates; especially Ovechkin.
6 HATED: JEFF HALPERN
A DMV native, Jeff Halpern began his career with the Washington Capitals in 1999 and was a steady center for the squad until he left for the Dallas Stars in 2006 – one year after Alexander Ovechkin arrived. Coincidence? I think not. You see, Halpern was the leading scorer on the team before Ovechkin came to town, and that quickly changed after the superstar’s rookie campaign. Halpern still accumulated a lot of points, but his stardom and leadership was being replaced by some hotshot Russian kid. He was even the captain of the team before Ovi skated him out of town. Okay, that’s not entirely true, I’m sure there was some business involved and Ovechkin is a nice guy and wouldn’t do that to a teammate, but Halpern must be a little bitter of the fact. Someday I wish to understand the business end of the sports world, but then again, I would rather spend my time being entertained and not bored, yet still feel obligated and allowed to complain about whatever stupid decision my respective franchises make.
5 LOVED: EVGENY KUZNETSOV
No matter how hard I try, I still can’t spell Evgeny Kuznetsov correctly without looking at something that displays his name. In fact, you should see how many little squiggly red lines are on this article before it is posted due to hockey names. Kuznetsov is another Russian who plays for the Washington Capitals. More and more spies in D.C. Drafted in 2010, Kuznetsov didn’t make his NHL debut until 2014. He’s brought a lot of energy to Washington, and just like Braden Holtby, has given Alexander Ovechkin and the franchise a jump start and a second wind, making Stanley Cup dreams very realistic. As he gains experience, the team is becoming more and more dangerous, and the locker room is more united than it has ever been. Ovechkin is showing the way for his young countryman, and the student even helped his mentor climb the gate of his home in order to be on time for their match one evening. Apparently Ovi’s electricity went out and his gate wasn’t working. The government is on to these Russians.
4 HATED: ALEXANDER SEMIN
On the other Russian hand, the really cold one, is Alexander Semin. If you aren’t familiar with the strange story of Semin then that’s okay, it’s a little confusing. To sum up, he had Russian military obligations, then some legal mumbo jumbo with the Washington Capitals, then went on his merry way to other teams, and now plays in the KHL. See, you didn’t even need Cliffs Notes. The guy had great potential, and it certainly showed, but unfortunately his skill was overshadowed by the Great 8. Alexander Ovechkin was the star, Alexander Semin was a role player and it didn’t pan out that well. Sure, they were good together, and Semin was also part of the young core nucleus of the Capitals, but something just always seemed a tad off. Maybe it was management, maybe it was envy, maybe it was some weird Russian cultural thing no one understands, maybe people thought they were fighting though they were just speaking in a normal Russian tongue, but in the end, it just didn’t work out.
3 LOVED: NICKLAS BACKSTROM
Nicklas Backstrom is by far one of the most underrated players in the entire NHL. He didn’t make his first All-Star game until 2016, but the Swedish star has provided numerous points since he was a rookie in 2007. He made the NHL All-Rookie team and also holds the NHL record for most assists in a season by a rookie. He just surpassed his 500th assist during this current season, and many have been directed toward Alexander Ovechkin. The two have meshed tremendously well since the beginning and have consistently been one of the most threatening duos in the NHL for the better part of a decade. Frankly, he is the engine that keeps the Washington Capitals’ train running, and without him, Ovechkin would probably have 200 (give or take) less goals. That’s an amazing stat really. In fact, he even assisted Ovi on the star’s 1000th career point this year. In classic good teammate fashion, Ovechkin credited his teammates for the accomplishment.
2 HATED: EVGENI MALKIN
Let’s get one thing straight: these guys could be best friends. They were even roommates at one point in their lives. They were picked one and two in the 2004 draft and have been compared by the media since they were young players in Russia. Imagine that: always being affiliated with one person you’re entire career, even playing against each other in the same league for teams that are part of one of the most heated rivalries in the NHL. They hit each other hard on the ice, they constantly try to outdo one another during matchups, and their emotions sometimes get the best of them. Okay, Carl, what does this have to do with them being teammates? I’m glad you asked. Just like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin has played alongside Alexander Ovechkin in All-Star games, but unlike Crosby, Malkin and Ovechkin are also Russian teammates for the country’s squad which has underperformed to say the least - in Russian standards, that is. Perhaps the stars don’t mesh well together, or perhaps they're jealous of each other’s hot Russian model partners. We will never know, but feel free to look up Anna Kasterova and Nastya Shubskaya since you're just browsing the internet anyway.
1 LOVED: BROOKS LAICH
It’s always sad when friendships are forcefully broken, but it’s always great to know that the bond suffered through the rift. Brooks Laich and Alexander Ovechkin are the best of friends and were the best of teammates until Laich was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2016. They were the last two remaining roster members from the 2005-2006 squad and entered the league at the same time. The grew up in the NHL together and were buds on the ice, in the locker room, and outside the stadium. When news of the trade filtered through the team, both Laich and Ovechkin were heartbroken it seemed. Laich was probably a little more upset considering he went from the best team in the league to the worst, but it was bittersweet because he was now given the chance to play for the team he cheered for growing up. Who are we kidding? It sucked! You leave the best team and your best friend for failure and disappointment (no offense, Toronto, but you’re well aware of your performance last year). Maybe one day they will reunite on the same side of the ice.