November 18, 2011
Ovechkin: 'Fame is fun'
By Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency
What’s wrong with Alexander Ovechkin?
On this particular day, the answer is easy: He’s got a red fleck in his shaggy hair.
When the speck is brought to Ovechkin’s attention by a Toronto reporter, he breaks into a chuckle.
“Please get rid of it. Quickly,” he laughs.
The Great Eight’s wish is quickly carried out. Upon its removal he is all prim and proper to face the television cameras that seem to follow him around wherever he goes.
Now that that business has been taken care of, we revert back to the original question, one the entire hockey world wants to know.
What’s wrong with Alexander Ovechkin?
“Nothing,” says teammate Brooks Laich.
“Nothing.” says Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau.
What about it, Ovie? What’s wrong with Alexander Ovechkin?
“Everything is okay with Alexander Ovechkin,” he says, flashing his trademark toothy grin. “It feels great being Alexander Ovechkin.
Is it fun coming off a 32-goal season, 14 fewer than his next lowest NHL total?
Is it fun still searching for that elusive first Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medal, two titles his rival, Sidney Crosby, already has won?
Is it fun having just 14 points in 17 games, including just one point in his past five outings, heading into Saturday’s game against the Maple Leafs?
And is it fun having his Caps mired in a 1-4-1 funk, including a 4-1 loss in Winnipeg on Thursday night?
“It’s hard to be happy when you’re thinking back on the game when you are losing,” Ovechkin said. “But I’m still having fun.
“Everyone thinks I should be getting 60 goals and 100 points and, if I don’t, something is wrong. But if I’m playing well and putting up numbers and we are losing, those numbers are not important.
“I’m not here to win the Art Ross Trophy. I’m here to win a Stanley Cup.”
Even standing in an almost-empty dressing room at the Air Canada Centre on Friday, there is a presence about Alex Ovechkin that few athletes possess. It is the type of quality that keeps him in the spotlight, no matter if things are going good or bad.
Earlier this season, his likeness was revealed at Madame Tussauds wax museum in Washington after studio artists spent the summer to take more than 250 precise measurements and photographs of him. In the process, Ovechkin joined Wayne Gretzky as the only hockey players to be immortalized in such a manner.
At the same time, there have been all kinds of wild, albeit unsubstantiated theories on the Internet concerning Ovechkin’s alleged decline, at least on the scoresheet. Too much partying. Allegations of potential steroid use. Plenty of finger-pointing but little proof.
That’s what it’s like to be Alex Ovechkin. Your name is always in the mainstream, whether it’s in a positive or negative vein.
“I love the attention,” he said. “It’s bad if they aren’t talking about you any more.”
Even if they keep asking what is wrong with Alex Ovechkin?
“Of course, I read the paper and watch TV,” he said. “But I don’t think things are all the way down for me. I actually think fame is fun.”
There has been plenty of speculation that his skills have eroded, that he is no longer the same player, that he is no longer capable of scoring 60 goals as he did when his supporting cast was much weaker.
“I don’t want to go back to a couple of years ago,” he said. “We have a deeper team now. I want to be a more complete player.”
For Laich, Ovechkin has become exactly that.
“I’ve played with Ovie for six or seven years and I’ve seen him do some amazing things,” Laich said. “He has all these all-world expectations on him. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that he’s only 26, the age of a younger brother.
“The first couple of years, we didn’t have such a deep team and Alex was just there to score every night. Now we are deeper and he’s sacrificing ice time and numbers so we can win.”
And if the Washington Capitals do win it all, it really will feel, in his own words, “great being Alexander Ovechkin.”