Alex Ovechkin smiles his signature missing-tooth smile as he opens his presser with a casual, “What’s up, guys?” The Washington Capitals captain signed a five-year, $47.5 million extension on Tuesday.
“I still wanna be out there, I still wanna be better. I have five more years to be better,” Ovechkin said.
Ovechkin intends to finish his career in D.C., a place that’s meant everything to The Great 8. In the spirit of reciprocity, he’s also meant a lot to the city; he even has a key to it. In a way, he is the Capitals franchise.
“The people I met with made me smile almost every day,” Ovechkin said, adding, “I’ll be honest with you, I don’t wanna go nowhere. The time I’ve spent in Washington has been pretty crazy, pretty fun. I learn a lot.”
Crazy and fun are just two ways to describe his journey.
The first memory that Ted Leonsis has of Ovechkin is from the 2004 NHL Draft. After they called his name as the No. 1 pick, Leonsis could feel the Russian’s heart beating after he made his way to the stage. Ovechkin was the first to shake everyone’s hand, and then ate eight pieces of cantaloupe.
Soon after, Leonsis and Ovechkin hung out by the pool. It was there that Leonsis was open with the young rookie: the Capitals were struggling, and the road ahead wouldn’t be easy. That was no problem for Ovechkin.
At his first practice, Ovechkin faced off against Olie Kolzig, who immediately skated up the ice to Leonsis. Then and there, he told him that the young player would eventually become the best player in the franchise.
Then came his NHL debut. With a tinted visor, yellow laces and No. 8 on his back, Ovechkin kicked off his career with a crushing hit that shattered the glass and two goals in his first game, showing signs of greatness to come.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 5, 2020
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Goal after goal, Ovechkin not only shined individually but also led Washington up the standings. Teaming up with Nicklas Backstrom and others, the team went from missed playoff opportunities to consistent division champions. Five years after entering the league, Ovechkin not only helped transform D.C. into a hockey city but became known as one of the world’s best goal scorers and most dynamic athletes.
Ovechkin was named the captain in 2010, helping him mature as he rounded out his game. The now 35-year-old not only developed his now-signature shot from “the office” in the left circle, but also worked on his defensive game as well.
As a person, he grew as well; he became a “family man,” a leader and a dad to two sons, Sergei and Ilya.
“In the beginning, you watch him, it was full blast, 100 percent, 100 percent over time,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “[He’s developed] an overall maturity of his game, learning the league and doing what he needs to be successful.”
“I think all those years when you play hockey, you see how the game change,” Ovechkin noted. “My first year was kind of slow, it was tough. It was different rules, and [when] rules change you have to adjust and you have to be ready for that. You need couple games to realize, ‘Okay,’ what you can do and what you can’t do.”
Finally, in 2018, Ovechkin carried the Capitals to their ultimate goal. With 15 goals over the playoffs, he hoised the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup after defeating Vegas in five games in the Stanley Cup Final. And going forward, one of the primary objectives is to do it all over again.
“When you win this once, you just wanna repeat and repeat,” Ovechkin said.
Also on the list: a record once thought to be unbreakable. Ovechkin is eyeing Wayne Gretzky‘s all-time goals record of 894. He currently sits one back of Marcel Dionne for fifth all-time with 730 goals, and he’s just 165 tallies away from passing No. 99. To do so, he’ll need to average 33 goals a season.
“We’ll see. It’s gonna be tough, but you never know, right? I just wanna do my best to be in history,” Ovechkin said, adding, “I have pleasure to play with great players, great team, great organization. I want to put myself on the top of the list.”
Ovi will be 40 years old when his contract expires in 2026. While MacLellan said that’s how long he expects him to play for now, and how long Ovechkin thinks it’ll take to break the record, Leonsis hopes that’s not the end of the road.
“He’s such a good guy… he’s very authentic and the community wanted Alex to stay,” Leonsis said. “… [We hope he will] win a Cup and break the unbreakable record, what a way to finish a career.”
For Ovechkin, he’s ready to do what it takes to hit 895, and most importantly, win another Cup.
“That’s why I wanna play five more years,” Ovechkin added. “To have a chance to catch ‘The Great One,’ why not? If I’m gonna be second, pretty good number as well.”