September 25, 2008
(Ed. Note: Schmoozing with Ovechkin is an occasional series on Puck Daddy in which we sit down with Washington Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin and vicariously live through his celebrity. Oh, and talk hockey, too.)
Alexander Ovechkin is sitting in an alleyway staircase at The State Theater in Falls Church, Virginia. The Washington Capitals had taken over the music club to shoot a video for their arena big screen, featuring Caps players playing instruments and lip-syncing to a new team theme song.
Ovechkin, the NHL's reigning MVP and scoring champion, has his hair spiked to the sky and is wearing heavy glam-rock eye makeup. I had interviewed him before games, after games and on off-days; I had never interviewed him looking like he had just staggered out of a rave. It was a bit distracting.
Already, Ovechkin and the Capitals are a primary topic of conversation in the NHL: Hitting the cover of ESPN the Magazine, where hockey usually appears about as often as opera does on the cover of Rolling Stone. (And getting a pimp photo inside.) After dramatically winning the Southeast Division before losing in seven games to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Capitals are suddenly playoff favorites rather than postseason possibilities.
In our first schmooze of the season, Ovechkin discussed the Capitals expectations, one extraordinarily busy summer for him and his adventures in glam rock:
Who do you think looks best with their rock makeup on today?
Ah, I think everybody looks best. Theodore looks awesome. Greener ... everybody.
It's unfair that Theodore can actually play guitar a little bit. Makes the rest of you guys look like amateurs. But you did sing a little Chili Peppers with him.
Yeah, I tried singing it. I faked it. I try.
Let me ask you this: Are you going to win the Cup this year?
We'll try. We learned a lot [last year]. Different game, different style. It was a good intense. Everything was awesome, just awesome.
What was your trip to Beijing like this summer?
It was cool, but the weather was no good. I was only over there for three days, at the Russia House. I spent the whole day over there, shaking hands and meeting everybody and being cool guy.
I was only at two Olympic games: Boxing and basketball. I had a pretty good time over there.
Your buddy [Andrei] Kirilenko's not going to play overseas, is he? He's still going to be in the NBA?
I was waiting to see you in attendance at the women's volleyball match, where Kobe was.
No ... no volleyball. (Ed. Note: I did not ask this question as a test for whether Ovechkin would pronounce "volleyball" with a Mr. Chekov "wubble-yoo" in front of the word. That said, I'm happy to report he's all but mastered the English "vee" phonic.)
Speaking of the Olympics, there's some talk now about the NHL ducking out after the Games in Vancouver. Are you going to be upset if they don't play in 2014?
It's still on right now. It's still a long time until Sochi. It would be pretty cool. I want to play over there.
I've been dying to ask you this all summer: How fast did you actually drive in front of the White House? I read the interview, and it was an amazing amount of miles per hour and there's simply no way you drove that fast. You didn't drive 150 MPH ...
You actually hit it? You actually saw something that said you were going that fast?
Yeah. They show me.
What kind of car are you driving these days?
Mercedes. In Russia, BMW and Mercedes. BMW and Mercedes are white; and one Mercedes is black.
There are a lot of interviews you did in Russia that are being translated over here in English. Are you surprised by how much your activities over there get back over here?
It comes because of Washington. Washington wants to know everything about me, about Semin, about lots of guys. I think it's good when fans try to find some news about you.
The summer was a little crazy for you, with the awards and with Beijing. Did you get any time to rest up?
Yeah, I went to Turkey with Semin, with a lot of good friends. We had a lot of fun over there. Fun time, fun summer.
With what you guys went through last year, how hard is it to approach this season? You've got expectations now.
We know we can do it. It's unbelievable when you were last place and then you win the division championship. It's pretty cool actually. Everything goes well, and we just don't think about the results. We think about our game. Just have fun. Play how we can.
Finally, there might be a chance I can pick you in my fantasy draft. If I do draft you, you can't let me down this season, OK?
I'm serious. I need points, man. You promise me?
Yeah, I promise you.