6 May 2008 – OV:”I’ll Stand In Goal If I Have To!”
Russian National forward Alexander Ovechkin: If necessary, I’m ready to stand at the net!
Soviet Sport continues it’s tradition of extending a “hotline” directly to the players at major hockey tournaments. On Sunday evening immediately following the game against the Czech Republic, the best goal-scorer in the NHL (and all-around good guy) Alexander Ovechkin answered some questions posted by our readers on our internet edition on our website www.sovsport.ru.
“I’M NOT QUITE RUSTY”
The meeting was scheduled in the hotel “Concord” where the team is staying. Its bad manners for a guest to show up empty handed, so I and my colleague Vitaly Slavin grabbed a couple of glossy magazines which had Ovechkin himself plastered on the covers. We handed over the gift and watched as Sasha studied the press.
-”Oh geez!” – exclaimed Ovechkin. – “What am I doing on the covers?”
What a guy! The picture of modesty. As if it isn’t him, like we were just wasting our time during the regular season when we were making all those commercials and turning him into an object of feminine desire.
-Do you remember who you gave interviews to?
-”No, I just pay attention to the photographs. Well”..- Sasha thumbs through the pages. “Oooh- this was in my first season in Washington–I still have my front tooth. Okay, I’ll read the rest of this when I have time.”
-Let’s get to the fans’ questions. Hedgehog wants to know: this is your first time you ever made it to the NHL playoffs. Is it true that there really is nothing else comparable to the feel of the game?
-”Sure enough. Every game in the Stanley Cup is played like it is the final battle. How can I explain it? Do you recall how in the 2006 Olympics in Turin we played a great quarterfinal game against Canada (2-0 with Ovechkin making the winning goal- ed.)? Just like that, in Washington’s game against Philadelphia I played seven such games! You have to win or die.”
-Is it true that NHL players receive their regular pay only during the regular season?
-”Yes, we aren’t paid during the playoffs. Not even a bonus.”
-Then why play “to die”?
-”Everybody wants to win the Stanley Cup. I’m not just blowing hot air.”
-Fight: wants to know- In the game against Italy you wore the jersey of the former USSR. For me, an old fan, I was filled up with nostalgia. Do you remember who it was in the 1972 Super Series that also wore the number 8 on his back? You have four choices: Mikhailov, Maltsev, Starshinov or Tretiak.
-”Let’s see. Right off we can exclude Tretiak- he wore #20. Maltsev was #10, Mikhailov…also wasn’t #8, so Starshinov? I think it was him.”
- Right on the money! Now a question from Anabolic:–where did you get your outstanding physical form this season?
-”This is from Anabolic? No, I don’t have any needs for steroids” Jokes Ovechkin. “One of my very best finds was when Kostya (my manager, who also lives in Washington) introduced me to Dima Kapitanov. He is a former marathon runner and now he is a fitness trainer. He is a Professional with a capital “P”. He helped me fine tune my body to such a degree that I felt outstanding all season long.”
-Alwa: wants to know- did the problem with your insurance influence your preparation for the championship? You couldn’t even practice on the ice.
-”Yes, I lost six days. But I didn’t get rusty. Once again my summer training proved itself. I immediately felt the puck as if I had not been away.”
“ALL IS FAIR IN WAR”
-Now here is a touchy subject. Do you feel that you are in a slump with this team which is continuing from last year’s championship? Only one goal in two games.
-”If I had made six goals in two games, nobody would be saying this. I had my chances, but it would hit the pipe or simply miss. I am not worried about this. Let’s say I score 20 goals in Quebec but we don’t win a medal. Would everybody be happy then?”
-Have you talked with Alexander Yeremenko, who was injured in the match against the Czechs?
-”Yes, something is wrong with his knee. The doctors can’t say for sure yet what is wrong. They have to take some x-rays.”
-Bykov said at a press conference that Mikhalek intentially tried to hurt our goalkeeper.
-”I only saw that on the replay. I can’t blame anybody. But the Czechs have always been known to play dirty. But all is fair in war.”
-Did the team understand that the game against the Czechs was a “concealed” quarterfinal? If we are in first place in our group after the second round, then we will most likely play either Belarus or Switzerland in the playoffs. This is much easier than playing the Swedes or the Czechs.
-”We were very well prepared for the Czechs. We’re not talking about some Italian, Chinese or Japanese team. The Czechs have won World Championships. They have won Olympics. Their motivation was unbelievable.”
-Will our team play close to the net after our goalkeeper injuries?
-”No way. We have so many experienced guys on our team. They all know that nervousness will lead only to defeat.”
-And if Biryukov is suddenly injured? Are you ready to stand at the net if Bykov gave the command?
-”Of course. What else would I do?”
“WHO WOULD BUY MY HAIR?”
-We look at you and wonder. You looked like an Italian during the Stanley Cup playoffs. With your long mane and beard. But when you come to Quebec you have a haircut and are all clean shaven.
-”Washington didn’t make it to the quarterfinals. I didn’t want to drag any emotional baggage from the past to the World Championship, so according to ancient tradition I cut my hair.”
-User SSSR want to know: for the sake of a gold medal in Quebec would you shave your cool locks and sell your hair at an auction?
-”I don’t think anyone would buy my hair” says Ovechkin, smiling. “But you know I was bald once. In 1996- I was 11 years old. No, I won’t tell you why I did it. But I don’t want to repeat that experiment again.”
-And how many millions from your contract with Washington would you be willing to give up to win gold at the Championship?
-”I don’t have any of these millions yet. The contract for $124 million doesn’t start until next season.”
-Are you evading the question?
“I think it is really bad to buy trophies and wins. And boring. It is much more interesting to earn them with your own labor.”
“PITTSBURGH WILL WIN THE STANLEY CUP”
-User Ildars wants to know: They say that team Russia is playing under a burden, and that they won’t be at peak performance until the second week. I’d like to know if your training in the gym includes any weightlifting?
-”We train on the bike, working on acceleration. Those who need it do some weightlifting. I don’t need it. I hurt my coccyx during the Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s why I can’t even sit down with a weight right now.”
-Anabolic would like to know who you think are the three best goalkeepers in the NHL.
-”Roberto Luongo from Vancouver, Yevgenii Nabokov from San Jose, and Martin Brodeur from New Jersey.”
-So which of these will win the Vezina trophy for best goalkeeper?
-”I think it will be Nabokov. I never cease to be amazed when I watch him play. And his statistics are unbelievable. If Nabokov doesn’t win it, who will? By the way, when we finish the interview I’m going back to my room”-Ovechkin share his plans- “The Dallas-San Jose game will be starting soon”. I generally watch all the playoff games.”
-And what is your prediction?
-”I am sure that the Penguins will win the Stanley Cup. They have to do this. Malkin is having an outstanding season, Hossa has discovered a chemistry with Crosby, they have a wonderful goalkeeper in Fleury, and a stable defensive line. Pittsburgh is so good that they don’t have any competition.”
“DRINK BEER, IT WILL MAKE IT ALL BETTER”
-Do you remember what your fitness coach Kapitanov said? “All hockey players are bears. Ovechkin is a most typical representative of this. He could stay in bed for days on end”.
-”I think Dima stretched the truth just a hair. Days on end? That’s a little much. But during the regular season I do sleep quite a bit. I get up at 9 and go to practice. Then I take a mandatory nap. If it is a day off, I might snooze until lunch.”
-That’s where you get all your energy. User Lyubanya wants to know: will you and some NHL players train in St. Petersburg again?
-”I don’t have any plans for it yet.”
-And why exactly do you go to St. Petersburg?
-”Because Kapitanov lives there. But if he were to move- say to Vorkut, we wouldn’t fly there.”
-Max-vereya wants to know: the game against the Czechs was so intense I almost had a heart attack. You shouldn’t make us so nervous! By the way, make a hat trick in the game against Denmark. Promise?
-”You don’t need to take heart tablets during these games, but rather drink some beer” laughs Sasha. “It will make it all better. As far as the hat trick, of course I will try. Within the boundaries of team play.”
-Kedrush wants to know: Sometimes I have the feeling that you are tense on the ice, as if you are nervous. And then- and emotional explosion, like what happened at the end of the regular season in the NHL. How do you explain that?
-”I can’t! Sometimes these unbelievable goals are made, and if you were to purposefully try and make them you couldn’t. Then you have an emotional high. And then you might be one-on-one against a goalie. It is a great chance, but you waste it and you ask yourself “holy cow, what just happened?”
-I saw your game against Montreal in Washington. Your nose got broken, and it seemed that you went ballistic and stared crushing your opponents, flying into the attack. Now that was an explosion.
-”Is that what it looked like from the stands? It was an illusion. I just played my regular game. I skated into position and I shot.”
-Uh huh, and just regularly scored four goals. Now let’s talk tactics. Are you comfortable having Kovalchuk in point position in your power play unit rather than you?
-”That is what the team needs. I have a different assignment, which I sometimes did in Washington- I have to stay between the dots and obscure the vision of the goalie. I have to play the role of a defensive screen.”
““BYKOV HAS NOT CHANGED”
-Have coaches Bykove and Zaharin changed since the last World Championship?
-”In what way?”
–I mean in their work ethic, their approach to the players.
-”They are just the same. No change.”
-Could you imagine that you could be in Kovalev’s shoes? You are 35 years old, you had a great season, but the coach tells you “Sorry, Ovechkin, we are rejuvenating the team. You are not going to the World Championship.”
-”Of course I could imagine it. Life is a volatile thing. By the way, when you see Kovalev, tell him Sasha Ovechkin said hello.”
-Here is a funny thing: just yesterday one of us flew to Montreal and Kovalev asked us to tell you the exact same thing.
-”You see how we think alike” Ovechkin smiled.”
Just a minute later he had written a message to the readers of Soviet Sport, carefully writing the letters “To All the Russian Fans! Good luck and many successes! We are the best!” He left his autograph with is number 8, above which he had drawn a little heart.