January 07, 2010
The Washington Capitals have selected (or should I say appointed) their new captain on Tuesday. A lot of people thought that it would be Brooks Laich(notes). But I think it was always Alex Ovechkin's(notes) with the right of first refusal.
And enough with the talk of him not accepting it a few years ago because of his poor command of English. Ovechkin himself confirmed it Tuesday that he just wanted to get more NHL experience and earn the respect of his peers and teammates before accepting the honor. Becoming the sixth Russian captain in NHL history, Ovechkin will try to be the first to actually win the Cup. Until recently Don Cherry's myth that a team can't win a Stanley Cup with a European captain was alive and well. Not anymore, "tak, herr Lidstrom."
"I would like to congratulate Alex on being named captain. He is a great player and a leader of their team, so I think he is a great choice and deserves to be their captain. I am proud that another Russian is getting this honor."
As for Ovechkin himself, he tried not to show that he was actually under any sort of pressure. This is what he told me last night after leading the Capitals to their first win under Ovechkin-the-kapitan:
"I don't want to be fixated on the fact that I am the captain now. I have to do other things, too. But even when I wasn't the captain but an assistant, I still skated over to talk to refs when needed. It wasn't difficult for me."
OVECHKIN: "All of the captains we had when I was here - Jeff Halpern(notes) and Chris Clark - did their job quite well. But I don't want to be like anyone. I want to be who I am. What do you mean the role model? You just have to show it on the ice, in the locker room that you are the leader. The most important thing is to have the guys respect you and listen to you. Because when you start talking and no one is listening to you - one is looking to the ceiling, the other is picking his nose - it's not that nice."
Can you really stick it to someone when something is not right in the locker room?
What was really the turning point for you when you decided to accept being the team captain? As far as I remember you were offered this honor a couple of years ago and you refused.
"It was you who offered it to me, the media. But seriously, I just got a lot more experience. I watched other guys handle themselves in the locker room. I learned what I had to do. For me the most important thing is to play. And being the captain is a [tricky] thing."
You said that you can stick it to someone in the locker room; you can get up and speak, and guys will listen. But imagine that at the trade deadline your team will get someone like Scott Niedermayer(notes), who himself is a captain and won Cups. How are you going to make someone like him listen to you?
"I don't think this will play a role. When a new player comes, especially an experienced player, he will know and will always try to help, instead of saying something like ‘What are you telling me?' I think he will help me. The same thing is happening right now with Mike Knuble(notes). He is helping me a lot. I don't think it is a problem."
I know the media will definitely talk about the following. Ever since you and Sidney Crosby(notes) entered the league, both of you were under a spotlight. Crosby has already won the Cup as captain. Now you became captain. Is there a lot of added pressure on you now to win the Cup?
"This is our goal anyway! But as I mentioned before, there is no pressure on me. That pressure just doesn't exist. I have just one goal - it is to play hockey and win. I don't think it makes sense comparing me as a captain and Sidney."
As much as a lot of us want to avoid drawing comparisons between Ovechkin and Crosby again, the rivalry just got another chapter. How many pages of it will be written in black and gold before the red, white and blue gets in the mix to proclaim Ovechkin's first Cup as the captain of his team?