Friday, September 02, 2005

The Many Faces Of Alex Ovechkin

The Washington Caps unveiled Alex Ovechkin yesterday, but I wouldn't be surprised if you were hard pressed to figure out just which Alex Ovechkin came to the District yesterday if you read some of the different media accounts.

The first one I tripped over was a piece by Tim Wharnsby of the Globe and Mail, and it confirmed some of the preconceptions I had about the Russian wunderkind:
The Sidney Crosby hysteria that has gripped the National Hockey League and its fans this summer has allowed Russian hotshot Alexander Ovechkin to fly under the radar.

That suits the high-flying Ovechkin, drafted first overall by the Washington Capitals in 2004.

"He's a Canadian, he should get more attention," Ovechkin said yesterday from Washington. He is slated to hold his first news conference for the Washington media today.

"If the National Hockey League was in Russia, I would be getting the attention," Ovechkin added. "I don't mind. It takes the spotlight away from me and maybe I will have less pressure to produce.

"Let's wait and see [who will receive more attention] at the end of the season."

As vanilla as the 18-year-old Crosby can be when discussing his expectations and NHL future, Ovechkin can be colourful and brash.
This seemed to make sense. After all, when Ovechkin and his teammates on Russia's national junior team eliminated Team USA at last Winter's World Junior Championships, they seemed pretty happy to torment the Americans in the game's final moments. Apparently, somebody had thought to show the Russian kids Miracle during their stay in the States, and they didn't take kindly to it.

A shocker, I know. Sort of like showing the U.S. Navy a restored version of Tora, Tora, Tora during a port call to Yokohama.

But then I read this account by Dave Fay of the Washington Times. For those of you who don't know him, Fay has been covering the Caps for as long as I can remember, and I've lived here 20 years:
He was nervous, which came as no surprise. And he had some difficulty with the language, also not a shock. But more than anything, Alexander Ovechkin wanted to know when he could get out on the ice.

The 19-year-old Russian wunderkind, newly enriched by the Washington Capitals, had no trouble at an MCI Center press conference yesterday, answering everything thrown his way and easily shifting between his own answers or utilizing a young interpreter.

Was he going out to buy the expensive sports car he had dreamed of now that he had some money?

"Right now I want to buy a house, because a car is a car but a house is a house," he said. "Maybe next season I buy a car."

(snip)

"If you play hockey, I want to win," he quickly answered, chopping off his interpreter, when asked if he realized the difficulties immediately ahead. "Always, sportsmen want to win game. We're a young team and not good, not as mature ..." Here he struggled with English words until his aide finished the thought for him, "but our passion will prevail as to win."
Nervous? And using an interpreter? Those would seem to be important details that you'd want to include in a story.

So what's the truth? Luckily, the Caps provided audio from yesterday's press conference so you can decide for yourself.

POSTSCRIPT: Here's a tidbit from the Washington Post coverage of the press conference that I thought was pertinent:
Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis said he expects the Capitals' season ticket base to hover around 8,500 this season, down more than 3,300 from the team's peak of about 11,800 during the 2001-02 season, Jaromir Jagr's first with the Capitals. Leonsis also said the team sold about 500 new season ticket plans last month, the best August in the six years he has owned the team.
Hmmm. Something to think about. More later.

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