September 23, 2008
"D.C., are you ready to rock?"
The line was right but the reading was wrong. Alexander Ovechkin -- wearing a guitar over one of his designer T-shirts, along with heavy eye makeup, his hair in a Cameron Diaz/"Something About Mary" gel explosion and flip-flops -- walked a few paces back to the middle of the stage at The State Theater in Falls Church, Virginia. The cameras rolled, the white lights blasted from the back of the room and the Hart Trophy winner confidently swaggered back to the mic stand.
"D.C.!" Ovechkin said, adding a beat of anticipation as he looked into the camera, "ARE YOU READY TO ROCK!?"
The Washington Capitals performed an annual rite of passage last night: The filming of their opening video for the arena Jumbotron. Only this wasn't some collection of icy stares at the camera through fake sweat at the practice rink.
This was a fist-pumping rock performance, bathed in strobe lights, smoke machines and some of the most garish glam rock makeovers you'll ever see on a hockey player:
Shows what a division championship can do for your confidence, doesn't it?
Ovechkin was the lead singer, although his moves were reminiscent of a replacement screamer for an aging classic rock band: A tad cliché and a beat too slow. But he got better as the night went on, if never reaching the heights of a Steven Tyler. Or a Nikolai Noskov of Gorky Park.
Defenseman Mike Green was on drums. He gave it his all ... but for the love of Bonham, someone get the guy a Tommy Lee video before the next shoot. It doesn't matter if you keep the beat: We must have stick-twirling with the tongue out.
Goalie Jose Theodore (guitar) and forward Brooks Laich (bass) actually exhibited some musical talent. In Theodore's case, he was noodling riffs from songs ranging from Metallica to Green Day throughout the evening. One memorable moment saw Theodore play the riff from "By the Way" by the Chili Peppers, with Ovechkin tossing melodically correct but nearly incomprehensible lyrics from the mic.
Guitarist Alexander Semin looked eerily like a post-rehab Scott Weiland with his glam makeup on. Fellow guitarist Nicklas Backstrom looked even more eerie, because he unfortunately resembled actress Chloe Sevigny. (The kid's too cool to make a "Brown Bunny" joke here, so we won't.)
Chris Clark played the role of the band manager, although I didn't witness any band meetings, which means he isn't as efficient as Murray from "Flight of the Conchords." Matt Bradley and Donald Brashear were dressed in suits as "security," although at times resembled the "Men In Black" poster.
The whole affair was a little surreal, as the players faked their way through a hard-rocking theme song for the season; one with monster riffs and a "hey, hey, hey" chorus that would have made Joey Ramone proud.
It became even more surreal when about 200 rabid season ticket holders joined the fray, chanting "Let's Go Caps" and screaming like they were at a Jonas Brothers appearance during the band's "concert."
But the most surreal facet of the evening -- besides seeing a group of NHL players look like they stepped out of the Headbangers Ball, minus the leather pants, multi-colored scarves and cultural irrelevance -- is the understanding that this is their job.
I don't mean that in some fan populism, "Can you believe these guys make millions for doing this?" way. I mean these players wake up, work out, skate their asses off, have a scrimmage, do interviews, work out, stress about their body weight index, learn the system, probably work out again and then spend an evening faking their way through a music video at a club in suburban Virginia until about 9 p.m. And probably missed "Heroes."
We'll have more with Ovechkin later in the week. But I had one question for him about last night's "gig": By the time I left the taping, he hadn't done what any aspiring rock star should do, which is stage dive into the waiting arms of 200 fans.
What's the deal?
"Too many kids over there," he said. "I don't want anybody dying. Or at least get hurt."