ESPN The Magazine: Has Ovechkin ‘lost’ D.C.?

October 4, 2012

The NHL announced the cancellation of the first two weeks of the 2012-13 regular season Thursday, marking the second time in eight years that the league has lost meaningful games because of a labor dispute. 


(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

While there’s no end of the lockout in sight, here’s a roundup of some of notable articles from the past few days:

– Content from ESPN the Magazine’s D.C.-themed issue came out this week, featuring plenty on the Redskins and Robert Griffin III, how the Nats were built, and the endless debate on Washington’s prowess as a sports town. It also wondered aloud in a sub-headline whether Alex Ovechkin has “lost DC” because he hasn’t experienced postseason success. 

Some locals have started pointing fingers at the Russian sniper. Ovechkin was voted Worst Local Athlete this summer in a reader poll conducted by the Washingtonian. A senior editor for the magazine, Denise Wills, admits to being taken aback by the results of the poll, whose methodology was never revealed. The result seems especially odd given that Ovi was deemed the city’s Local Hero in the same poll just last year — and that he’s still, you know, very, very good. Ovechkin is taking the backlash in stride. “Of course the fans want us to win the Cup. We want to win it for them and for us,” he says from Russia, where he is playing his lockout hockey with Dynamo Moscow. “But we’ve found that it takes a mixture of things to win, and we need to find the right mixture.”

The Caps hope the hiring of offensive-minded coach Adam Oates will rejuvenate Ovechkin’s goal-scoring ways in his eighth NHL season, whenever it begins. But ultimately, Ovi says, “that shouldn’t matter as long as we win.”

So allow this to serve as a warning to the new star in town: Eye-popping highlight reels and a winning personality are great. Long playoff runs are better. 

ESPN The Magazine is far from the only outlet to examine Ovechkin’s lack of playoff series wins or the dip in his individual statistics. But have those factors caused a decline in his popularity in the Washington region? I’m not sure I’d go that far.

Sure, the area boasts many more young stars  – RGIII, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, John Wall — than it did when Ovechkin broke into the NHL, but his place within the D.C. sports scene isn’t necessarily shrinking. He’s still the player who helped spark the growth of hockey throughout the region, as evidenced by the amount of youngsters you’ll find sporting red No. 8 jerseys at weekend free skates or pee-wee practices across the area. 

– In happier Ovechkin-related news, the good folks at RMNB have pictures of the ring the star left wing received this week to commemorate Russia’s 2012 World Championship gold.

– Back to the lockout: With the cancellation of regular season games looming, the NHL took to soothing the concerns of their largest sponsors this week via Chris Johnston of The Canadian Press

– Would a soft salary cap combined with a luxury tax solve the NHL’s labor dispute? Via David Shoalts of The Globe and Mail

– A lengthy one-on-one interview with NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr via The Hockey News’ Adam Proteau.

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