“That’s his biggest problem — his mom,” said a person familiar with the situation. “She did what she did for Alex. She played a huge part in his growth, in his career. But it went too far. I understand it’s family, I understand they’re very close — it’s not that. The question is: Is he ever going to grow up? I’m not only talking about hockey. She’s in his life in many other areas — relationships with girls, with friends, with everyone. It’s bizarre.”
Tatiana handled the bulk of his last contract negotiation, and she netted her son a 13-year contract worth $124 million, tying together the franchise and the star through the 2020-21 season. The big contract, though, has also brought increased responsibility and scrutiny.
Some close to the team suggest the family’s focus on money has put Ovechkin in a class all his own in the Capitals locker room. “No matter how much money the family earned, they were always, ‘It’s not enough, not enough,’ ” said one person familiar with the family.
The team’s treatment of Ovechkin might also have alienated some of those who were around for his meteoric rise — creating some fracturing within the locker room. Whatever the case, the so-called “Young Guns” aren’t as close as they once were.
“Back in the day, it used to be everyone went out together, everyone hung out together, everyone went to lunch together, everyone went to dinner together. Now, it’s Semin and Ovi — and everyone else,” said a person familiar with the locker room. “Not everybody has to be best friends, but when things go bad or aren’t going as well as they used to, then there has to be some sort of trust in each other.”
An Olympic letdown
There have been no shortage of theories posited to explain Ovechkin’s sharp fall. But one is heard more than others, and it stretches back to 2010.
At the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, NBC broadcaster Pierre McGuire was stationed between the teams’ benches during the quarterfinal game between Russia and Canada, so he saw the carnage up close. When it was over the Canadians had routed the Russians, 7-3.
“I have never been part of a game as a player, coach or broadcaster, where one team got so thoroughly beat down,” McGuire said. “I’ve never seen that before. It was really something to behold. You can understand why some guys might have dented psyches after that.”
Perhaps no player suffered as much as Ovechkin, who carried his country’s hopes and repeatedly referred to the Olympics as a dream. His mother won two gold medals as an Olympic basketball player, and Ovechkin was heavily invested in Vancouver, mindful that in 2014 Russia will host the Winter Games at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.