Even though he isn't straight out of the nation's capital, Washington Capitals captain and left winger Alex Ovechkin is deemed one of the best players in today's NHL. Ovechkin was born to Mikhail Ovechkin and former Russian basketball player Tatyana Ovechkina, who won two gold medals with the USSR national team in the 1976 and 1980 Olympic Games. Ovechkina also won six European Championships (1970, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980) as well as the 1975 World Championship and the 1977 Summer Universiade. Mikhail and Tatyana gave birth to a Russian legend who ended up revitalizing a once depleted Capitals team.
Ovechkin decided to play hockey and pursue a career in the NHL, but he sort of followed his mother's footsteps as he has represented his native Russia in multiple Olympics (2006, 2010, 2014) and World Championships (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). He has won three World Championships (2008, 2012, 2014).
Ovechkin began his hockey career with HC Dynamo Moscow of the Russian Super League (RSL) at the age of 16. He played three seasons for HC Dynamo Moscow before being selected by the Caps with the first overall pick of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. With the exception of the 2004-05 NHL lockout, he has been with the Caps ever since. He seems to be very loyal to his team through the good and bad times. He was promoted as the Caps' 14th captain in franchise history on January 5, 2010. He has been a fairly consistent player who continues to display his captain-like qualities up to this day. However, he's also not the brightest bulb on the shelf.
If you're a true hockey fan, you'd know about Ovechkin's failures on and off the ice. Here are 15 things the NHL doesn't want you to know about Ovechkin.
17 Brother Sergei Passed Away When Alex Was 10
Alex's career could've ended before it started.
In an interview with Fox Sports, Alex opened up about his older brother Sergei's death (from a blood clot following a car accident) when he was just 10 years old. Alex is a rather quiet man who barely talks about his personal life, but Sergei's death affected him in a negative way and the Ovechkins pushed Alex to continue playing youth hockey.
"It was hard, I was crying. I remember I was crying that day," Ovechkin told Fox Sports. "I was on the bench, I was crying. But my shift, my coach said okay, go play. And I played and I was crying. It was hard but at 10 years old, you obviously [don’t] realize what’s happening. It was a hard moment for my mom and dad, for all my family because oldest son passed away. It was a hard time."
Fortunately, Alex used Sergei's death as motivation to succeed instead of going off the deep end.
16 Alex Avoided Punishment Despite Hit On Zach Werenski
The Caps escaped Columbus with a 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets on April 2, 2017. It was a costly loss for the Jackets that had nothing to do with the fact they lost three consecutive games for the first time in the 2016-17 NHL season. Jackets' rookie defenseman Zach Werenski was injured early in the third period as Alex delivered a knockout blow in a corner. Werenski didn't return to the game.
Jackets coach John Tortorella later confirmed Werenski was day-to-day with an upper body injury. The Department of Player Safety reviewed Alex's hit on Werenski, but never seemed to have followed up with any details regarding the questionable hit. It appears that Alex avoided his punishment, which could've been really bad.
15 Alex Was Allegedly Dumped By Maria Kirilenko Over Instagram Photo
Social media can be a bad thing and that's not an understatement. According to Russia's R-Sport website, an Instagram photo posted by Alex led his ex-fiancee, Maria Kirilenko, to break off their engagement on July 21, 2014.
"I have decided to terminate the engagement," Kirilenko told R-Sport. "I do not want to go into the details. I’ll say one thing: Our relationship is over, but I respect [Alex] as a person and athlete and I sincerely wish him continued athletic success. At this moment, I’m concentrating on getting prepared for my next tournament. Hopefully soon I'll make my fans happy with news not about my personal life, but my sports achievements."
Whatever photo Alex posted, it sure angered Kirilenko, who's a Russian tennis player who has reached three Grand Slam singles quarterfinals as well as the 2010 Australian Open, 2012 Wimbledon Championships and 2013 French Open. He should be more careful when it comes to posting pictures and videos on social media.
14 Ovechkin Was Accused Of Lying About His Age
Last year, a bombshell was dropped in Canada by Radio-Canada's Martin Leclerc. He went to air and reported that several Russian NHL players had lied about their age.
“There are persistent rumors and very well-informed people around the NHL that states Ovechkin is not the age he pretends to be” said Leclerc.
“With the Russian, you never know their age. It’s the same problems the MLB faced with Dominican players” he continued.
Among the players Leclerc named were Alexander Radulov, Mikhail Grigorenko and Ovie himself.
The advantage in lying about your age for junior hockey players would obviously be to make yourself a year younger, so you could play against younger players and increase your draft stock.
12 Alex Organized A Movement To Support Russian President Vladimir Putin
Alex has skated in two different worlds for more than 10 years, but the fact he splits time between Washington, D.C. and Russia has seemingly affected his political views. He strongly supports Vladimir Putin and has even organized a movement to support the Russian president.
His post is in Russian, so we'll translate it in English for you. "Today, I want to announce a social movement in the name of PutinTeam," Alex wrote in the post. "Be a part of this team — to me it’s a privilege, it’s like the feeling of when you put on the jersey of the Russian team, knowing that the whole country is rooting for you." Ovechkin ended the post with the hashtag #putinteam.
Obviously, Alex's support of Putin is newsworthy, but Alex is the face of hockey in the nation's capital. Russia has been accused of attacks on democratic elections in foreign countries, including the United States. American president Donald Trump likely isn't going to approve of this post.
11 Alex's Friendship With Evgeni Malkin Turned Sour In 2009
One of the best bromances in the NHL came to an end in 2009. Alex began feuding with fellow Russian hockey player, Evgeni Malkin, after reportedly punching Malkin's Russian agent, Gennady Ushakov, in a nightclub in Moscow, Russia. Malkin ignored the fact they used to be roommates during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, and the bond between the two players was immediately broken. They also didn't make eye contact during the 2008 NHL Awards.
Despite all the animosity, Alex never admitted the real reason why he punched Malkin's agent and Malkin never confirmed if Alex's punch to his agent sparked the infamous feud in the first place. So we'll never know who was right and who was wrong unless if one of the two guys reveal the truth.
10 Alex Reconciled With Evgeni A Few Years Later
There was bad blood between Alex and Evgeni on and off the ice, but the pair reconciled a few years later. In the 2016-17 NHL season, Alex's first game in Pittsburgh wasn't in a Caps uniform, but a Team Russia uniform for the World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament game at CONSOL Energy Center.
Evgeni shared his thoughts on Alex's return to Pittsburgh. Evgeni told Sport Express: "When I am on the ice the fans will cheer. When it’s Ovechkin–they will boo. I actually hope that there will be a good atmosphere at that game. Ovechkin is respected in Pittsburgh, but even if the fans’ reaction is negative, it will only egg him on."
In 2017, Alex shared how he was happy Evgeni won his third Stanley Cup. Alex told TASS: "I am just happy for him...I haven’t had a chance to congratulate him – there is a time zone difference, and they were probably celebrating. It’s nice when Russians win trophies." That's a pretty darn good way to congratulate a brother.
9 Alex's Post-Goal Celebrations Were A Little Too Much
Alex may be one of the greatest hockey players in the league, but he has gotten some criticism from a couple of notable people over his post-goal celebrations.
In February 2009, Canadian hockey analyst Don Cherry disliked Alex's celebrations of jumping into the boards as well as his teammates. Cherry said that "this was not the Canadian way" and advised Canadian kids to ignore Alex's celebrations.
In March 2009, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said "that [Ovechkin] went down a notch in my books." Tocchet made the statement after Alex scored his 50th goal of the season and put his stick on the ice to pretend to warm his hands over it because it was hot.
As you might have expected, Alex was unapologetic for both of these incidents and even had some blunt words to say to Cherry. Alex said: "He's going to be pissed off for sure...I love it!"
8 Ovie Was A San Jose Sharks Fan
Alex has stayed put with the Caps since 2004, but his favorite team growing up was the San Jose Sharks. When he was asked if there were any players or teams he admired when he was younger, he responded: "My favorite team was San Jose...I was cheering for them, especially when [Owen] Nolan was there...You grow up and you watch them and you want to be just like them."
Alex first found out about the Sharks when he saw a former teammate wear a hat with the team’s logo. He had no idea which team it belonged to, but he later found out it was the Sharks. He then became the owner of a teal and black hat, hoodie and jacket. He also said his father gave him a jersey of Swedish left winger Ulf Dahlen, who played four seasons with the Sharks from 1994-97.
"It was on my wall," Alex told Curtis Pashelka of The Mercury News. "That was kind of fun."
7 Alex's Parents Didn't Sit Together When He Scored His 500th Goal In 2016
On January 10, 2016, Alex made history by scoring his 500th goal with the Caps. However, his parents, Mikhail and Tatyana, weren't sitting together at the Verizon Center. A couple of readers noticed the fact his parents weren't sitting side-by-side and apparently told the credentialed blog/multinational media conglomerate Russian Machine Never Breaks, who broke the surprising news.
While a proud Tatyana broke down in tears, a happy Mikhail recorded the historic moment on his iPhone. No, they weren't separated, just practice an unconventional routine.
The couple were asked about this particular routine in an interview with Graham Bensinger in 2015.
"That’s the way we like it," Tatyana told Bensinger. "I always like sitting by myself so that no one bothers me."
"I like being with the crowd," Mikhail told Bensinger.
Tatyana added: "And Papa loves being with the crowds, surrounded by fans and all his friends saying 'Mikhail, hi! Hi, Mikhail!'...I like sitting alone so that no one bothers me. I stay focused on the game and watch it carefully. And it’s always like that—in basketball and my games as well...I'm always alone. I do not like it very much if someone I know sits next to me. That’s how it is."
6 Trade Rumors To Calgary
Unsurprisingly, Ovechkin has many friends in the media back in Russia, and once in a while, news about Ovie leaks out of Russia that many North American sports journalists may not be able to pry. Last summer, following another disappointing early playoff exit for the Caps, rumors swirled that the Flames had offered the Capitals a significant trade package for Ovie. The rumored package was Sam Bennett, Oliver Kylington and two first-round draft picks. The report wasn't backed by many other outlets, but you have to wonder if Ovie is going to end his career as a Capital, considering the team keeps underachieving in the playoffs. Would the NHL want yet another one of their superstars going into a market like Calgary rather than Ovie staying in the nation's capital?
5 Ovie Needs To Accept The Fact He Won't Play In 2018 Winter Olympics
Despite Alex's stated intention to disobey the NHL and represent Russia in the upcoming Winter Olympics, it's looking less likely the Caps captain will be given the chance to do so. In September 2017, Russian Hockey Federation head, Vladislav Tretiak, said: "Ovechkin needs to accept he will be unable to participate."
Tretiak’s comments came after NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Athletic that the league has assurance from the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), which oversees international competitions. So NHL players under contract won’t be allowed to participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games in February 2018.
Alex continues to believe there's a chance he can still play, but Tretiak disregarded his beliefs. Tretiak told R-Sport: "What is there for Ovechkin to do now? Nothing. Play for Washington...He has to accept that."
In spite of that, the team comprised of Russian athletes is still expected to win gold, even if Alex is barred from representing them.
4 Alex Was The Victim Of A Repeat Pittsburgh Newspaper Troll
Remember when a Pittsburgh-based newspaper writer said San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow deserved to be put in a coma by a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, simply because he wore a Giants jersey to L.A.?
Yeah, the writer's name was John Steigerwald, and he's basically asking for it.
In 2011, Steigerwald's brother, Paul, accused Ovechkin of using steroids, simply because his numbers were declining and there has to be some kind of explanation.
Paul said: "There are whispers and maybe even some out-loud conversations around the hockey world about Ovechkin's problem being a lack of artificial help...In other words, performance-enhancing drugs...The guy was superhuman when he first came into the league. He had the hardest shot anybody had seen in years. Goalies around the league talked about how it was different from everybody else's shot."
3 Alex's Wedding Reception With Current Wife Was Ruined By Rain
Alex was unexpectedly dumped by his Russian tennis star ex-fiancee, Maria Kirilenko, but he found love a year later. He announced his engagement to Russian model, Nastya Shubskaya (daughter of the late Russian actress/director Vera Glagoleva) on September 11, 2015. The couple tied the knot in a small ceremony at the Barvikha Luxury Village on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia.
There was only one issue with the couple's wedding reception: Mother Nature didn't get her act together as rain poured during the exquisite reception. However, the rain didn't cause the couple to put their reception on hold as their friends and families made do by holding transparent umbrellas as they exchanged their vows and said their "I do's." After their first kiss as husband and wife, the newlywed couple had their first dance together. They seemed to be happy, and hopefully, they'll continue to share that happiness many years from now.
1 Alex Played A Role In Sidney Crosby's Most Recent Concussion
#HockeyTwitter went insane when Pens captain, Sidney Crosby, left the big stage following a crosscheck from Matt Niskanen in Game 3 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Second Round series. While the Caps wound up winning the game, 3-2, in overtime on a power-play game-winner from defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (who's now with the New York Rangers), the team was unable to escape the questions from the media regarding the painful incident.
When asked about the incident, Pens coach Mike Sullivan responded: "You know I really don't have...I'd rather not share my opinion on it."
The incident began when Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen rumbled into Crosby with his stick held high. As if that wasn't bad enough, Alex's stick connected with Crosby's helmet as the Pens captain stumbled past the crease and was face-down on the ice until a trainer tended to him. As a result, Niskanen received major penalty and a game misconduct, but Alex got away with it, despite playing a role in Crosby's concussion. Obviously, the NHL was being the NHL, losing accountability and credibility in the process.
At least Alex eventually addressed the arguable play to reporters in Pittsburgh. Alex told Mike Johnston of Sportsnet: "This stuff happens...It's hard to see a player go down and it’s hard to see him get hurt…I hope he’s going to be fine and [gets] back in the series."