Ovechkin has heart

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

Young Alexander Ovechkin doesn't have a Hart but he showed plenty of heart yesterday.

The Washington Capitals' star joined fellow players Alex Steen of the Maple Leafs and Andrew Ference of the Calgary Flames as the National Hockey League's front men for Right To Play, a Canadian based project to give disadvantaged kids in troubled areas of the globe a chance to improve their lives through sport. At least 24 countries have benefitted thus far from the efforts of athletes in other sports and plans have already begun to assist youth in war-ravaged Lebanon. Right to Play supplies equipment and coaching, but just as important, real-life role models.

Steen and Ference hope to see their efforts first hand next summer by visits overseas, while the 20-year-old Ovechkin -- who has been has been approached to captain the Caps, but has refused, citing his yet-to-be perfected English -- intends to invest his time and money in his native Russia.

"A lot of kids in Russia, don't have clothes, don't have anything," the rookie of the year, first-team all-star and Hart Trophy finalist said yesterday at the Hockey Hall Of Fame. "I give a lot of my old stuff, such as my skates, to the younger people. I'm lucky. I want to teach my (future) children the same thing."

Other NHLers to join the program include Hart winner Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks. Steen, born in Canada and raised in Europe, was touched by the plight of the kids when told about the program by Norwegian speed skater Johann Olav Koss, who is Right to Play's president and CEO. The thoughtful young winger was looking for the right opportunity to make his first charitable contribution.

"There are many regions in need and once I get a better idea of my schedule I would like to go to a place such as Africa," Steen said.

About a half million dollars has been raised by Right To Play. Koss pointed out that girls in developing countries are particularly in need of sports activity so as not to be marginalized by society.


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