Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin still feels most at home in Russia

The NHL and Warner Home Video released an Ovechkin DVD titled "Alex Ovechkin: the GR8," focused on the Caps star's time with his family in Russia. The Post's Dan Steinberg chats with Ovechkin outside of Hudson Restaurant in D.C. about feeling lucky, McDonald's and loving animals.
By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 16, 2010; 12:14 AM

When last we saw Alex Ovechkin in his native country, he was spilling larger-than-life caricatures over the pages of GQ magazine, riding down Moscow's streets on summer nights, shouting "Boom!" at attractive young ladies.

This week brought a slightly different angle on Ovechkin's offseason. The NHL and Warner Home Video released an Ovechkin DVD titled "Alex Ovechkin: the GR8," focused on the Caps star's time with his family. And so, instead of Ovechkin in the club, we see his mother digging out photos of Ovechkin as a young boy, his face stained by dates. We see Ovechkin leading the camera on a tour of his childhood apartment, pointing out the lot where he'd play hockey and the corner grate that would gobble up stray pucks.

We see Ovechkin trying to decide whether he more resembles his mother or father, before deciding "I'm from up there," with a gesture to the sky. "From above."

We see Ovechkin dropping 1,600 rubles (about $50) at McDonald's, and Ovechkin's personalized Russian license plates, and Ovechkin promising to finally show his crazy lifestyle - with his doting grandmother.

"This is my lovely grandma," he tells the camera. "Soon, we're going to the nightclub with her. She's relaxing before that."

We see Ovechkin playing basketball without a shirt, and Ovechkin playing tennis without a shirt, and Ovechkin riding an elevator without a shirt, and Ovechkin introducing his girlfriend to the cameras without a shirt, and Ovechkin playing with his three dogs without a shirt. He spends approximately half of the 60-minute DVD in various states of undress.

"Yeah, I have great body, man," the winger joked Monday night, during the DVD's launch party at Hudson Restaurant and Lounge. "Girls love it."

But above all, the footage shows Ovechkin smiling and laughing, comfortable and relaxed during his break from the fans and the media and the questions. "People, when they with their family, feel comfortable and happy, you know?" he told me Monday. "I feel pretty happy here, because my parents [are] here. And I love this town, I love this place. But [Moscow's] my hometown. And you can ask everybody where they want to spend time with their family, and of course it's their home town."

So while the movie celebrates Ovechkin's on-the-ice accomplishments, it also shows an almost nostalgic young man remembering a time when he didn't have a nine-figure contract, when he wasn't being shuttled from one interview to another - "like this one here," Capitals owner Ted Leonsis joked on Monday. Sure, he was living in a two-bedroom flat on the top floor of a Moscow apartment building - "small penthouse," he cracked - but he was also a pretty normal kid, doing pretty normal things.

"It was fun time, you know, because everybody was happy, everybody was together," Ovechkin told me. "Right now, you have to think what you're gonna do. If you're kid, you can do whatever you want and nothing's gonna happen. You can play the game, you can ask your dad to buy you candy, buy you fruit. . . . People start to know you, kids watching you. If you're gonna do some bad thing, the kid's gonna do it and the parents gonna say, 'Hey, don't look at this guy, he's a little bit bad.'"

Still, whether he's interviewing Sidney Crosby on his Flip Cam in Las Vegas, sunning on South Beach "watching beautiful girls" or explaining how his Russian cousin looks like Kobe Bryant, Ovechkin and the NHL have presented an image of a young star happily enjoying the life.

The DVD will be available at retailers starting Tuesday, with Ovechkin signing copies from 6 to 8 p.m. at Best Buy in Sterling.

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