While the Capitals visited Chicago for their preseason finale Saturday night, their captain was in Olympia, Greece, awaiting one of the defining moments of his athletic career.
Alex Ovechkin was the first Russian to carry the torch after it was lit Sunday, kicking off the 123-day relay leading up to the opening ceremony for the 2014 Sochi Olympics in February.
The star winger will arrive back in Washington late Sunday night after the quick trip to Europe. Ovechkin is expected to take part in Capitals practice Monday morning at KCI before the team travels to Chicago ahead of the regular season opener. It’s just the first example of how Ovechkin’s two worlds — NHL Ovi and Olympics Ovi — must coexist more this season than ever before.
Colleague Dave Sheinin has a terrific look at the dual pressures of winning a Stanley Cup and capturing Olympic gold that Ovechkin must tackle this season. An excerpt follows, but be sure to make time to read this one.
Ovechkin’s familiar, distinctive face — those blue eyes and high cheekbones, that thick unibrow, the thrice-broken nose that lists to the left, that gap-toothed smile — is now ringed by flecks of gray in his meticulously tousled hair, a vivid reminder that time is no longer his faithful ally. He is now roughly at the midpoint of the 13-year, $124 million contract he signed in January 2008, and if hockey history is any guide, has more great seasons behind him than ahead of him.
“Time moves fast. It’s all I can say,” Ovechkin said last week. “Of course, you always want to be 24, 23 years old. But it’s impossible. . . . When I came [to Washington] first time, I was think, you gonna be that kind of guy who’s gonna stay close to the great ones. I win three [MVPs]. It’s a big honor, and you want to win more and more. But it’s individual stuff. . . .We have to move forward as a group and as individuals as well.”
People close to Ovechkin in the Capitals organization say his primary motivation in hockey is to bring a Stanley Cup to Washington, but in any Olympic year the Capitals understand that the duality of the two Ovis is more pronounced — that there is, by definition, an NHL Ovi and an Olympics Ovi, each with his own pressures and needs. The Capitals understand they have to share their franchise player with Russia, but never has the arrangement been more tangled than it is this season.
Let’s leave it to Ovechkin to describe the Olympic torch experience. Here’s what he tweeted Sunday morning.
— Alex Ovechkin (@ovi8) September 29, 2013