Alex Ovechkin returned to the ice in Arlington Tuesday for his first practice with his Capitals teammates since the end of the lockout, happy to be readying for an NHL season.
Multiple times during the 113-day lockout, Ovechkin was one of several Russian players to suggest that he might not return to North America if the new collective bargaining agreement drastically reduced his contract. He returned quickly to Washington, though, after learning details of the tentative deal that was struck early Sunday morning.
“Of course, first of all, I want to find out what the deal is because if this lockout is done, it’s done,” Ovechkin said when asked if he had any hesitation about returning. “What’s gonna be situation with my contract and the contract for the future for the players? Everything right now, it’s over. Sometimes you just think, ‘Why we do that?’ But probably we can stay all day talking about [that] with you guys.
“But it’s over, so I’m happy to [be] back,” Ovechkin continued. “It was hard time, but I think everybody miss hockey so badly right now. It’s nice to be back.”
Ovechkin played 31 games with his hometown Dynamo Moscow of the KHL during the lockout, recording 19 goals and 21 assists. He says he feels good and appeared to have plenty of hop in his stride as he zipped around the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, joking with teammates.
Regardless of Ovechkin’s comments, General Manager George McPhee didn’t doubt that the captain, the player he built the Capitals’ roster around, would return.
“He was coming back and it’s my understanding that within 10 hours of the handshake deal, he was packed up, moved out and on a plane,” McPhee said. “He wants to play here and it’s the best league in the world. If you’re a competitive guy it’s the place you want to be.”