ARLINGTON, Va. – Alex Ovechkin arrived back in Washington from Russia on Monday afternoon, just over 24 hours after the NHL lockout reached its tentative end. He said fans recognized him in the airport, thanked him for coming back from the KHL and said they couldn’t wait to see him play.
Frankly, Ovechkin wasn’t sure when he’d see the Washington Capitals fans again.
“To be honest with you, no. I thought I would play to the end of the season in Russia,” he said on Tuesday at the Capitals’ practice facility, meeting the local media for the first time since last season.
“It was a hard time for some of us. But it’s over.”
Ovechkin and the Capitals expect to begin training camp this weekend. Until the CBA is ratified by the players and owners, new coach Adam Oates is supposed to stay away from formal discussions with players about the 2013 season.
Ovechkin is ready for the truncated season, which is expected to be 48 games. “The playoffs start the first game. It doesn’t matter how good a team you are on paper,” he said.
This will be Ovechkin’s eighth NHL season, coming off a 38-goal campaign. He’s a little grayer around his hairline, rocking a shirt that read in Russian: "Am I really the most attractive one here, again?" And soon the 27-year-old will be a married man, as he got engaged to tennis star Maria Kirilenko earlier this month. Kirilenko left for Australia soon after their engagement, and the couple haven’t had a chance to set a wedding date.
How does it feel to be engaged? “Pretty normal,” Ovechkin said, earning a laugh.
“It’s a good feeling. You can’t do whatever you want anymore. When you have a girl with a tennis racquet and she can hit you.”
Check out the video above for thoughts on the KHL, the NHL's CBA and Nicklas Backstrom's injury over in Russia.