Nastya Ovechkina sat legs crossed in a black leather chair, hair up in a ponytail as her eyes started to drift to the large television in the family lounge at Capital One Arena in early February.
The interactions between father and son have revealed a different side of Ovechkin, even as the greatest Russian goal scorer continues to awe on the ice.
Ovechkin is a family man now, trying to spend as much time with Sergei as possible when he’s not at practice, games or on the road. His first focus is on family, a notion he makes a point to repeat in conversations.
“He just matured, you know, as anyone would,” Nastya said. “He just has a different mind-set now. From when we were first together and now, I think he’s grown. Now he is responsible for himself, for me, for his son. … He thinks not about himself, you know? He thinks about how we can be better, the whole family.”
That’s why Ovechkin’s 700th goal ceremony Tuesday night at Capital One Arena was seen not only as a momentous achievement that will be marked in hockey history books but also a significant family memory for Ovechkin.
As the red carpet was rolled out, Nastya stood next to Alex on the ice at Capital One Arena, with Sergei in her arms before she handed him to her husband. With Sergei wearing a red “Ovi Jr” Capitals jersey and blowing kisses to the crowd before giving a tiny hug to his father, the moment showcased the first major milestone Ovechkin has achieved with Sergei in his life. And to Ovechkin, that’s important.
While Ovechkin’s parents are in Russia and making plans to come in person to see the Capitals in the playoffs, having Sergei in his arms was a different type of joy.
“He’s my boy, I can tell you that,” Ovechkin said. “We play with him all the time with the stick, and he always wants to be in my arms to hold. It’s like, ‘What do you expect from me?’ when he wants that.”
After Ovechkin scored his 700th in Saturday’s matinee against the New Jersey Devils, one of the first things he did when he returned to his Virginia home was open a package of new mini hockey gear for Sergei. His excitement spoke volumes. He looked as thrilled, if not more, to put the CCM gloves on Sergei’s little hands and see the new mini skates and pads than he did talking to media after his milestone goal.
Ovechkin still carries an everlasting love for hockey, but now it’s shared with his family, and he wants his son — and other children to come — to bask in the glow.
Sergei, who was born in the summer of 2018, already has about five mini sticks he carries around and brings to various places — even on vacation. When there is a broken stick during a game at Capital One Arena, Ovechkin will often catch it and give it to Sergei to play with in the locker room. When Sergei sees his father on TV, he will let out a squeal and scream “Dada!” When Ovechkin comes home, even before he could walk, he would start crawling toward the door.
“You know, everything that me and Nastya do is to try to be on his schedule,” Ovechkin said. “He is still little, and we know at certain times he takes nap, and then we have our time and we go shopping and do some different things, but after that, we try to spend as much time as we can because he miss me, he miss mom and you know, it’s great time.”
Alex and Nastya met at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Ovechkin was invited by the Russian committee, and Nastya, about 15 at the time, was there with her father. The two bumped into each other at one of the events and became friends after he took her number and they started texting. She was still in Russia while he was with the Capitals in Washington, and so when she lost her phone a couple of months later, they lost connection.
Early in 2015, they reconnected. Ovechkin saw her on Instagram and commented on one of her photos, and then the two started messaging again. They would talk via FaceTime, and their relationship continued that way for a few months before they saw each other again in person.
She was in Los Angeles studying film with the New York Film Academy, and Ovechkin had a couple of games in Anaheim and Los Angeles with the Capitals in mid-February. The two went out to dinner, she attended both games, and soon after she finished her studies, he invited her to come to Washington.
“I came,” Nastya said. “And after this, I stayed till now.”
The whirlwind continued from there, and they got engaged in the summer of 2015. One day, Nastya was in the shower, with shampoo lathered in her hair, when she suddenly heard a barrage of knocks on the door.
“I was like, ‘What! Do you understand I am just . . .’ and he didn’t stop, so I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh’ and I got a towel, and I opened the door, and he is on one knee with the flowers and with the ring,” Nastya said. “At first when I opened the door I thought I would kill him. Can you imagine you were in the shower and then you need to get out . . . oh, my God. Why you couldn’t just wait? He said: ‘No, no, no. I wanted to right now.’ ”
In 2016, they signed their marriage certificate in Russia, and a year later, they had their ceremony.
“Nastya understands [Alex] very well, supports him,” Ovechkin’s mother, Tatyana, said of her son through a Russian translator. “Nastya understands his soul. She helps him a lot. She cooks great. So yeah, we are very happy that the family is so nice and their son is wonderful. He is so charming, such a great boy. Very smart and athletic, of course.”
After Sergei arrived, toys started to pile up in their Virginia home, and Ovechkin started to bring Sergei around the locker room with the rest of his teammates. He’s a staple on Nastya’s Instagram stories, with Ovechkin often shown playing with him and making him laugh.
“I was kind of waiting for that moment when my kid is going to be around with me in the locker room,” Ovechkin said. “The culture that we have here, it is something special, and all the guys love the kids, and it is going to be fun for him as well.”
And as the family stood on the ice at Capital One Arena on Tuesday, Nastya’s face glowing with pride and Ovechkin acknowledging the crowd, for Nastya and Alex, it was yet another memory of their growing family.
“Right now all I think about is family. . . . She is my one, and she takes care of me, takes care of my son and gives me everything I need,” Ovechkin said. “I think I can’t find a better one. If I had a chance, I would never change it.”
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