SUN Hockey Pool

Alexander the great

STEVE MACFARLANE, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

When the Calgary Flames hit the road next week, they'll face the league's new golden boy.

Not Sidney Crosby, but Alexander Ovechkin.

The Russian sniper is on a tear, leading the points race and on pace to be the first player to break the 60-goal mark for the first time in more than a decade.

Add his skills to the way he plays the game with reckless abandon, and his fun-loving attitude on and off the ice, and you've got yourself a fan favourite who has grabbed the attention of every NHL enthusiast.

There are many reasons to love the 22-year-old. Here we give you one for every goal he's netted so far this season.

1. Actually, there are $124 million reasons -- Take that, Terrell Owens! Ovechkin's contract is the richest in NHL history.

2. He spends his cash wisely -- The caveman look isn't a fashion statement, it's a money saver. We're guessing either his mom cuts his hair or he just doesn't bother.

3. Hairdresser AND agent? -- After parting ways with Don Meehan, Ovechkin 'hired' his mom, Tatiana, in the fall of 2006 to give him guidance. Worked out pretty well, too.

4. He's not superstitious -- Signed a 13-year contract even though No. 13 might be considered unlucky.

5. The tinted visor -- He totally looks like a Russian fighter pilot.

6. His bloodline -- Mom captained the 1976 and 1980 Olympic gold-winning Soviet Union basketball teams. His dad, Mikhail Ovechkin, was a professional soccer player.

7. He's a momma's boy -- Ovechkin wears No. 8 for his mom, who wore the same number playing basketball.

8. His Internet girlfriend -- Ovechkin discovered love on the Net. He met his girl Katja online on Odnoklassniki, which is a Russian version of Facebook or Classmates.com. The two reportedly had mutual friends and met face-to-face for the first time last month.

9. He's a romantic parently, he sends his girlfriend text messages between periods.

10. The flat-on-his-back goal -- Jan. 16, 2006: Knocked down by Paul Mara during a charge to the net, Ovechkin found himself sprawled out, but still managed, with one hand on his stick, to hook the puck into the net past a diving Brian Boucher.

11. A tribute to his brother -- After that immortal score, he kissed his glove and raised it to the sky, honouring -- or thanking -- his late brother Sergei, who was killed in a car accident in 2000.

12. He outclassed Sid the Kid -- There's a reason Sidney Crosby didn't win the Calder Trophy. Ovechkin was better.

13. Room service -- "How many people in the room? Just me." The hotel prank that ended with Sidney Crosby's classic "Ovechkin!" grimace, a la Seinfeld, filmed at last year's all-star game in Dallas was gold, Jerry, gold.

14. He hits -- Hard, too. Check out YouTube for hours of evidence. Our favourite is the one he layed on Chris Chelios in the Turin Olympics.

15. He fights -- Well, at least twice. Poorly, but he was game both times. Once in the Russian Superleague against Oleg Tverdovsky, and once in the pre-season against the Flyers' Mike Richards.

16. He shoots -- Ovechkin has taken 365 shots on goal this season. Florida's Olli Jokinen is the only other player with 300.

17. He acts ... sort of -- Beating up the candy machine with Caps owner Ted Leonsis fighting a vending machine in an NHL promo commercial was priceless.

18. Worth the wait -- Because of the lockout, Ovechkin didn't get to play his first NHL game until 16 months after he was drafted first overall. He didn't disappoint.

19. His robot brain -- "It's like there's a motor inside that drives me to work harder and a voice in my brain (he pauses and points to his head to laugh at this point) that has me thinking a couple of moves ahead," Ovechkin once told NHL.com. "When you're born from great athletes, I think you have kind of a sixth sense when you play. I have my mom and dad to thank for that."

20. Segway skills -- Ovechkin and three teammates toured D.C. on the two-wheeled tools earlier this season. The Russian decided to go off-roading in his and was scolded by a police officer. His reply: "All right, see you," before speeding off.

21. The playoff push -- Who'd have thought the Capitals would be anywhere near a post-season berth this late in the season? Without him, they wouldn't be.

22. Coming up aces -- It's hard not to hate him for it, but you've got to love the fact he nailed a hole-in-one in his first attempt at playing golf. He aced a 160-yard, par-3 hole after a few hours of practice.

23. His confidence -- "Talent ... If I chose golf instead of hockey, it would be Alex Ovechkin first and Tiger Woods second," he said last year, alluding to his hole-in-one.

24. He's no Tavares -- Even though Ovechkin's birthday is two days past the cutoff day for the NHL draft, he didn't try to buck the system the way John Tavares is trying to get in early.

25. One giant leap -- The Florida Panthers did attempt to select him a year early at the 2003 draft in Nashville. They tried to argue that because of leap years, Ovechkin was eligible. The NHL said he was not.

26. His all-star effort--If not for his flip-and spin puck-batting attempts in the judged shootout competition portion of the all-star game, the event would have been a complete waste of time.

27. The fact he plays for the Caps -- When's the last time you remember rooting for a member of a team from the U.S. capital?

28. His love for Owen Nolan -- The Flames' veteran power forward was Ovie's favourite player when he was a 17-year-old dominating opponents at the world juniors.

29. He made former Flame Chris Clark a captain -- There's no doubt Ovie will be Caps captain one day, but he turned down the idea in the fall of '06, wanting his English to be more fluent before owning the ultimate responsibility.

30. The 2006 draft -- Willing to do something different to please his team and the league, Ovechkin took the stage and announced Nicklas Backstrom as the team's first pick.

31. His post-goal jumps -- You'd think the novelty of scoring would wear off after a couple of 50-plus-goal seasons.

32. Taught a goon how to score -- After scoring his first of the season last January, Donald Brashear told reporters Ovechkin says to shoot from everywhere: "I have lots to learn from him."

33. His passion for the game -- "Of course in a game you have to be serious, but still you have to have fun," Ovechkin told Dan Rosen last month. "I'm always on the go. I just have fun here. When your dream comes true you have to have great fun."

34. His love for Montreal -- His favourite city to visit because of all the pretty girls.

35. He doesn't use hockey as a pickup line -- Dan Patrick of ESPN asked him if he tells girls he meets in Montreal he's a hockey player: "I think they know. If not, I say I'm a businessman."

36. His interviews -- Just the fact he's willing to talk in his broken English -- unlike uncomfortable countrymen such as Evgeni Malkin and Nikolai Zherdev -- is enough. But his sense of humour makes them even better.

37. His terrible twos -- His parents still have a picture of the young phenom, who grabbed a stick and helmet off the shelves of a Russian toy store and refused to give them up.

38. He's proud to play in the NHL -- Unlike some of his fellow Russians, he was happy to escape his homeland to play in the world's best league.

39. He loves a good steak -- Asked what is his favourite thing about America, he answered "filet mignon."

40. A strong start -- In his first NHL game, he notched two goals and got the shootout winner.

41. Ending a dozen year drought -- If he hits 60 goals this season, he'll be the first to do it since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr hit the mark 12 years ago.

42. Aiming for Art Ross -- He could become the first Russian to lead the NHL in points.

43. Duck hunter -- Earned his first NHL hat-trick against the Anaheim Ducks. And we hate the Ducks.

44. Double or nothin' -- He's the only NHLer who has more than twice as many goals or shots than any teammate.

45. Another Gr8 one -- Ovechkin and Wayne Gretzky are the only two players in league history to hit the 50-goal mark in a game during which he bagged a hat-trick.

46. Colour co-ordinated -- Wears red Crocs at home and yellow ones on the road. No one knows why.

47. He makes Ricky Bobby look slow -- Ovechkin does everything fast. He says he took his BMW up to 180 m.p.h. on the way to the airport, where there were no police.

48. He sucks at poker -- "The only time I've ever seen him rattled was one night in Buffalo, when he lost a credit-card game of poker at dinner and had to pay for a bill for 10 of us that was around $1,000," Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig told Larry Wigge last summer before the awards dinner at Vancouver. "Soon," Kolzig laughed, "he'll realize he could buy 10 restaurants like that one in Buffalo."

49. Sign of the times -- Evading a horde of grown men trying to profit from his signature while walking through a parking lot to the rink in New York, he put pen to paper for the one young fan who was obviously genuine.

50. He's a gamer -- After being chosen as the cover boy for EA Sports' NHL 07, Ovechkin felt he truly found a place in history. "To me, I feel like your accomplishments have been recognized when you make the cover of a video game."

51. Same old, same old -- Money was never an issue, and Ovechkin says his new contract won't change anything about him. "I always had money, and money doesn't change me. I stay the same way, stay the same person."

52. Needs his own theme music -- "He's like the shark in Jaws, circling in the water waiting for blood," St. Louis Blues president John Davidson once said. "They should play that music from the movie -- da-duh, da-duh, da-duh -- when he's out on a shift. He doesn't just go after loose pucks, he hunts them down."

53. The inevitable Alex Ovechkin reality show -- Finally, one we could actually stand to watch.

54. The fact he didn't score and add to his total yesterday -- Coming up with 54 reasons to love any NHL player is tough.


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