Fourth-Place Medal investigates mystery of Ovechkin's skates

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin's Winter Olympic skates are as spectacular and ostentatious as Alex Ovechkin. They catch one's eye from anywhere in the arena, and most likely also from the Earth's orbit. They have golden laces and red flames and some sort of demonic farm animal. Their inspired sports artistry make us wish Russia had a NASCAR circuit.

What's the inspiration for this "Michael Jordan-esque" hockey bling? We asked Dmitry Chesnokov, writer for Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy blog and an Ovechkinologist, for the lowdown.

The No. 8 is obvious: It's his NHL and Olympic uniform number. The Russian flag is even more obvious. The flames? He's an offensive powerhouse known for his powerful skating and sizzling offense; and he's already "lit" his stick on fire, so why not the skates?

Which brings us to the demon sheep, which brings us back to Dmitry: "The sheep is sort of a tribute to Ovechkin's last name. 'Ovechka' is translated as a 'sheep' into English. So, Ovechkin's last name (with the common Russian ending of '-in') means 'sheep.'"

OK, but why does the sheep look so demonic? "I guess it's something like an angry or a determined sheep," said Chesnokov.

Pavel Lysenkov of Sovietsky Sport asked Ovechkin about the skates after Tuesday night's Team Russia win over Latvia, and Ovechkin said (in Russian): "It was the team serviceman who put it on the skates. I haven't studied it yet. I am going to do it right now." Hopefully that worked out for him.

Dmitry tells us that Ovechkin also had "special" skates in the Turin Olympics in 2006 (shown on the right) and during the International Ice Hockey Federation world championships in Quebec back in 2008, with blades painted white, blue, and red for the Russian flag. He scored five goals (video) in Turin and won gold in Quebec.

The higher the stakes, the fancier the skates, the better Ovechkin plays; which is good news for a Russian team looking to spoil Canada's home-ice gold-medal chase. Ovechkin already had two goals in the opening win against Latvia.

(Thanks to Capitals Insider for the skate tip.)