Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin was a guest on Russia's Radio Sport on Friday, and he was outspoken on a number of different topics -- some that are no doubt controversial back in his homeland.
Criticizing the finances of the KHL. Lamenting the corruption in Russian youth sports and the apathy of Russian youth. Taking on critics of his play in the NHL.
Here are a few excerpts from the interview, courtesy of sports.ru and translated.
Ovechkin on his technique:
"Regarding the technique -- my father set up my shot. When I was a child we used to go to our dacha 100 kilometers from Moscow, where I spent a lot of time. He built a goal and put up cans in it. We had 10 pucks. Until I hit a certain number [of cans], I wasn't allowed to go out with other kids. They were waiting for me, watching, anxious.
"Actually, the shot is my thing since I was 15. I once saw a stick in a store; I see that it's my curve, I asked my father to buy it. We bought the stick, I came out and everything is awesome, I am enjoying it, the puck goes where I want it to. There was a shot, I had the shot. And now it's the same.
"I don't want to say that I have the best shot in the world, but it is one of my aces."
Ovechkin on people calling his play "too straightforward."
"The question of why I am playing straightforward is a very simple one. It only looks that I play straightforward."
"Of course, when I watch videos on YouTube or on TV, I think 'Damn, just pull the puck right here.' And in the game everything looks different. If you are going against one defenseman and he skates back then it's understood that there is no point to make any kind of moves. You can break, look around, pass. But you still know that when you're going one-on-one then why wait, if you can create a chance? You always have to push it to the max.
"It is all about simplicity, actually. If I were to come up with something, then I would be who I became. As far as a big number of assists last season, all of them were from ricochets, rebounds."
Ovechkin on the KHL:
"Of course, to play in the NHL is a dream. You can go to any youth sports school and ask those who train there -- everyone will say that they dream of the NHL. There cannot even be a talk about comparing the two leagues. The KHL right now is moving in the right direction, raising up a little, but there is no point to compare the leagues. Let them call me names, call me a traitor, but this is true.
"Medvedev did the right thing that he signed Denis Grebeshkov(notes), Maxim Afinogenov(notes), Evgeni Nabokov(notes). He showed the NHL that Russian players can come back to the homeland and play ay the same level as the NHL. But still, there are only 3-4 teams here that keep up to the level, and there are no other teams.
"There is also a deception," said Ovechkin.
"Look at what is happening with Lada Togliatti - it is a disgrace. In America, it is difficult to imagine not paying people their salary. And if it's not only paid in hockey, players here get certain amounts, but imagine someone who works as a janitor, a tram driver... We're OK, we have the savings, we put the money in the bank; if we're not paid now, it's OK, we'll survive. But their salaries are really small."
Ovechkin on youth hockey in Russia:
"You can say whatever you want, and everyone can talk very good. But if you look at what is happening in reality with our youth hockey, then the situation is a lot to be desired.
"When I was young, there were no people who came up and said: 'Here's the money for you, play my son, let him play and enjoy. And then we'll see.' This is the worst. It's in the clubs, in national teams -- it's the same everywhere. And when I started playing for the national team, it was happening. Two, three people were there who "had a pull." But now there are more of them. Unfortunately, in Russia money decides everything.
"The problem is also that right now hockey is an expensive sport on itself. How did my mom [basketball coach] and coaches do it back then? They went around schools, scouted girls, picked them themselves. Who of our coaches will now go to a school and say: 'Come by'? When children there are already standing with a cigarette, with a bottle of beer, and they don't need it. That's why we don't have a generation we had in the cases of Kovalchuk, Malkin, myself.
"And it's the same everywhere: in soccer, in basketball - everywhere."
Ovechkin on the Stanley Cup Playoffs:
"Of course I want to win a Stanley Cup. But apart from me there are other guys who want it too.
"In principle, playoffs is such an unpredictable thing, you never know who will win, who will lose. It looked we were way better than Montreal, but they [beat] us and Pittsburgh. How was it possible to think that someone can beat us, beat Pittsburgh -- especially the Canadiens, [the club] people talked about as if they had no team at all? We led 3-1, came to Washington and thought: ‘Well, right now we will...' And that's where we were taken 'cold and hot.'"
Ovechkin, on whose playing style he likes:
"When I was young, my father and I additionally went to train with Alexander Maltsev. He showed me what I had to do, he entrusted me with what he knew. And to name players against who I play... I am so selfish, I am not going to say anything. I'd better keep my opinion. Everyone is a good player: Kovalchuk, Sema [Alexander Semin(notes)] is very good, golden hands... But I will keep my opinion [to myself].
"I have no idols, I am the only person."
In the past year, Ovechkin has taken more of an interest in the NHLPA and other player issues in the NHL. You can see why: He's a passionate supporter of the game.