30 November 2008 –Two Little Words
Whenever I translate a news article or interview with a Russian Capitals player, I wonder whether or not the article will just be of interest to a very few people and then quietly sink into the background, or whether some phrase or quote will spark interest and get taken up and passed around the blogosphere and debated and dissected ad nauseum. So now I have this internal set of literary “rabbit ears” that tend to perk up when I read things like the two word reply which Alex Semin gave to Slava Malamud in a very brief interview after the Thrashers game. Slava asked him when he thought he would return to the ice, and Semin’s tiny, two word response was “Наверное, нескоро”. Translated, it means “Probably not soon.” Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel these two small words will cause some justifiably concerned conversations around the web’s water coolers. Here is the article in it’s entirety.
In a home game against Atlanta, Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin made his sixth career hat trick. Thus he now has ten goals in nine games following a personal record nine game scoring drought
Attention class! Now for a lesson in sports history! Did you know that the phrase “hat-trick” comes from cricket? In this pastoral, gentlemanly sport, one of the most improbable feats is when a bowler (the player pitching the ball) dismisses three batsmen in consecutive pitches. It is monstrously difficult to achieve this feat. In the 19th century, when the cricketers played in top hats and ties, a tradition was started whereby a bowler was awarded a new hat after just such an achievement. This is where the term “hat trick” comes from. Now you can brag to your colleagues or classmates about your new found knowledge. And never again say that “Sport-Express” doesn’t raise your intellectual level.
This digression through history smoothly segues us to the fact that at the end of the game against Atlanta, Alexander Ovechkin paced the locker room with a red hardhat on his head. This is the American hockey interpretation of the English cricket tradition. And it is excellent. You wouldn’t even dare imagine Ovechkin in a top hat. The Capital’s helmet is passed along after each victory to the hardest working player, usually to the unrecognized heroes– the Tomas Fleischmanns and David Steckels of the world. Somehow it is difficult to consider Ovechkin, with his 120 million dollar salary, as “working class”. But when a guy spends more time on the ice than any other player, including defensemen, and when he participates in four out of five of the teams’ goals and has six shots on goal (as well as 8 near misses), it is impossible to find anyone more hard working. This is how Alex Ovechkin’s hat day turned out.
Ovechkin’s sixth hat trick in the NHL occurred without any superfluous drama. A powerful shot from the blue line while on the power play, a shot into an empty corner of the net (also in the PP), and another from the crease. Not to mention an excellent pass on the move to Viktor Kozlov (who tore through two defenders and beautifully beat the goalkeeper), and a shot at an empty net in the final seconds which hit the bar.
Here he is, the Ovechkin we all know and love. Fans yanked off their caps and peppered the ice with them, and there was a new animated clip on the video screen of Alex celebrating a goal, with his shirt opening up to reveal relays and gears, and below it the inscription: “Ovechkin- The Russian Machine”. Especially touching in this artistic rendering are the carefully traced whiskers on his face. And he just recently became so clean shaven!
Washington easily handled Atlanta despite having almost half their team missing, including Alexander Semin and Sergei Fedorov. Both are recovering from injuries of various levels of severity. One also can’t discount the idea that perhaps Ovechkin once again had to consider himself the sole hope of the team.
However, his friend and colleague from the national team, Ilya Kovalchuk, is continuing the worst start of his career. Two assists while on the power play is cold comfort for the newly repaired Russian star (in the locker room after the game Ilya sported a sewn-up nose– a trophy from his fight with Ian White of Toronto). Atlanta was brought down by a dreadful defensive game, in particular the defensive pairing of Exelby and Hainsey. It was between these two that Kozlov broke through to the net, and they were on the ice for all five goals of the home team. Despite Ilya’s assurances to the contrary, it is somehow very difficult to believe that he isn’t fed up to the hilt with the Thrashers.
Alexander Semin: “It Will Probably Be A While Before I Return”
Injuries have really thinned out the ranks of the Capitals during the past few weeks. In the game against Atlanta it was necessary to call up the eternal farm-clubber Mink, the rookie defenseman Alzner, and shorty forward Chris Bourque, son of the great Boston defenseman Ray Bourque. Alexander Semin, from whom Ovechkin took the title of best goal scorer of the team, once again did not hit the ice, even though he participated in practice sessions. After the game he glanced into the dressing room for a few seconds and watched as Ovechkin took on a group of reporters while wearing his read hardhat, and answered a few questions from your Sports-Express correspondent.
Alexander, how is your health? When do you think you will return to the ice?
“Probably not soon. I still can’t play yet.”
But you are practicing.
“Practicing is one thing, and playing is another. I don’t need to return until I am 100 percent ready. Look what happened with Fedorov. He came back after his injury and had to go right back out.”
So Ovechkin’s hat trick won’t speed up your recovery?
“What am I, an idiot? Chasing points to the detriment of my health? No, first I have to be be fully recovered.You have to understand that I don’t receive any pleasure whatsoever from watching the game from the stands.”