Considered one of the greatest hockey players of the modern NHL, Alex Ovechkin finally got to raise the Stanley Cup earlier this year when he led the Washington Capitals to a championship victory following a 4-3 win in Game 5 of the finals against the Vegas Golden Knights on June 7. The 33-year-old left wing also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP for scoring 15 playoff goals.
After celebrating on the ice at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Ovechkin took the Stanley Cup on the ultimate tour of Washington, D.C. The 125-year-old trophy (the oldest in all American pro sports) that was commissioned by Lord Stanley of Preston and made in Sheffield, England, has now seen more of the D.C.-area than most tourists! It spent a night at Don Tito in Arlington, went to the Nationals game when Ovechkin threw out the first pitch, was transformed into a keg stand in Georgetown, met first daughter Ivanka Trump, had dinner at iconic Italian restaurant Cafe Milano, and got to celebrate with thousands of fans in the Capitals championship parade. Then the Cup went global, traveling to Russia with Ovechkin for the World Cup.
“All the moments were something special, I can’t say which was the best, but I think when we celebrated with the fans at the parade, that was probably something I’ll never forget,” Ovechkin told #FlyWashington magazine of the post-championship festivities. “You know we have fun, the fans have fun, and all the city was crazy about it.”
Ovechkin’s first Stanley Cup of his 13-year NHL career also marked the first championship for the Washington Capitals, which has turned him into a local hero in our nation’s capital. He even acted as honorary captain for the Washington Redskins home opener in September to pass on some of his good luck to the NFL team that’s not won a Super Bowl since 1991.
Since the Capitals victory, Ovechkin said that he hopes the tide has turned for all Washington sports franchises. “I think the Redskins have a really good team. We always support them, I’m a true Redskins fan. I wish them luck and I hope they will be good in the season — they are going to be good in the playoffs as well,” he predicted. “That’s the most important thing. You have to get into the playoffs, and you never know what’s going to happen there.”
Born and raised in Moscow, Ovechkin has lived in two of the world’s most famous capitals but says Washington, D.C. and Moscow are totally different cities. “I would say this is my second home and my first home is Moscow, which is almost like New York. Everybody is running somewhere and there are lots of people, here it is more quiet and more calm.”
Ovechkin grew up in a tough neighborhood on the outskirts of Moscow where career prospects were limited. “You did what you had to do,” Ovechkin told GQ magazine in 2010. Fortunately, he found hockey at an early age and spent his youth getting up at dawn to head to the rink. The sport got him through a number of personal tragedies including the death of his brother at 17, and Ovechkin went on to become the youngest-ever member of Russia’s national team. He set his sights on the NHL and in 2004 became the first number one draft pick from HC Dynamo Moscow since the fall of the USSR.
On October 4, 2005 (after being delayed a year by the lockout) Ovechkin took to the ice at the Capital One Arena and scored two goals in his dazzling debut against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He went on to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year, scoring 52 goals and 54 assists to lead all rookies with 106 points and finishing third overall in league scoring. And the rest, as they say, is history. Ovechkin has since scored over 600 goals, broken countless league records and played in the NHL All-Star game seven times.
He’s also found success in his personal life. In August 2016, Ovechkin married Nastya Shubskaya, the daughter of actress/director Vera Glagoleva, in a small, private wedding in Russia. He announced the nuptials in an Instagram post with the caption: “This is happiness.” The couple added to that happiness this summer when they welcomed son Sergei Aleksandrovich Ovechkin (named after Alex’s late brother) on August 18.
Ovechkin called the birth of his son and winning the Stanley Cup in the same year “the two biggest moments in my life,” but said becoming a father had the most impact on him. “That was something special. The most important thing he is healthy and happy, it’s very good.”
It’s also had a positive effect on his mindset going into the season. “I think for me, I just have to do the same thing. Play hard and be a good example. If I’m on the ice, I have to do something that’s a great moment for me and for my linemates,” he said.
Ovechkin spends many weekends over the summer at his family’s country home 90 minutes from downtown Moscow, but in the season he lives in McLean, Virginia, where mementos from his career fill the basement. He is also an avid car collector and said: “I think my favorite car is in Moscow, it’s a Mercedes G Wagon G65. That’s probably the best car I have.”
When he’s not going back to his homeland, however, Ovechkin likes to travel and one of his top destinations is South Florida. “When we have a schedule with a day off, I always fly to Miami. It’s got great weather, good food and is an unbelievable place,” he told #FlyWashington.
Cities north of the border are also on his list. “I like Montreal. I like Vancouver, L.A. and New York, but not Buffalo,” he laughed (except when the Capitals play the Sabres, of course).
Rather than seeking out excitement when he travels with the team, Ovechkin appreciates the downtime. “When we go to a city, I like to relax because we are professional athletes,” he said. “Sometimes you go to a hotel, you take a nap, then maybe you go walk to a restaurant and that’s it.”
“If I’m on vacation, I like to do some stuff with my family. I don’t like lots of walking but sometimes you have to do it,” he added.
With the NHL season stretching from October to June, Ovechkin spends a lot of his time in the D.C.-area throughout the year and often hosts out-of-town guests. Aside from dining at the slew of great restaurants — “steakhouses, sushi, hibachi” — he likes to show visitors his workplace.
“They come to the arena to watch us practice,” he said, before showing them more conventional tourist spots. “We go to the White House, some of the museums. The D.C. area is very cool so you can go and do whatever you want and are always going to have fun.”
The Ovechkins currently live in McLean, close to the cool new developments and shopping malls at Tysons Corner, but Alex had a few different houses before settling down there.
“I lived on 16th St. my first seven years and then I moved into McLean,” he said.
His new home is in a “great area with unbelievable neighborhoods,” he said. “If you want to go to shopping, it’s over there. If you want to go to a restaurant, it’s over there. I have a kid right now so there’s lots of stuff going on around over there.”
Having played in the final game of the entire 2017 – 2018 NHL season, the Capitals had a shorter offseason than teams that didn’t make the playoffs — but that’s not a bad problem to have.
“It was a short summer, obviously. I’d rather have that summer all the time than four months to do nothing and watch somebody else celebrate with the Cup,” Ovechkin said.
Having won a Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy, the Prince of Wales Trophy, seven Richard Trophies, several Hart Trophies, eight Kharmalov Trophies, and played in the Olympics, NHL All-Star games and World Championships, Ovechkin said he still has one major career goal to achieve.
“I still need the Olympic gold,” he said, as the NHL chose not to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, where Olympic Athletes from Russia ultimately won the gold medals. Ovechkin instead has his sights set on Beijing, China, for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
When he is not dominating on the ice, spending time with his family or enjoying the best that Washington, D.C. has to offer, Ovechkin takes the opportunity to help those less fortunate.
“I just like to help people out because I think God gave me what I have, and I think you have to share with the kids, with people who need it,” he said. “And I love to do that. I think this organization does a great job to support all the people who needs help.”