I have to admit, as a die-hard Washington Capitals fan, I was a bit disgruntled when I heard Ovi had made a quick exit out of the country following our gut wrenching Game 7 loss to the Rangers this past spring, all for the sake of catching up with his skating comrades, in hopes of winning a gold medal for Russia in the World Championships. Ovi had left before the Capitals held their traditional post-season “breakdown day”, and I guess part of me just wanted a moment to digest the brutal game 7 loss, and have Ovi around to commiserate. However, as time passed, I learned to see it from Ovi’s perspective, and quickly let go of my negative feelings regarding his rapid departure.
As a by-product of Ovi’s quick exit, I started to ponder what Ovi’s life might be like back in Russia. I wanted to see what he would be doing this summer, and try to get a sense of his day-to-day life. Not as a direct result of his quick exit, necessarily, but more or less to get a better idea of what one of the worlds greatest athletes does during his summer “off”. The results were surprising to me, but in retrospect, I guess they shouldn’t have been.
So back in mid-May I began my daily regimen of checking news sources, social media, Russian news services and any other contacts and resources that might have current news on the daily happenings of “Alexander the Great”. With the exception of a couple of weeks of vacation in Turkey and Italy, Ovi was surprisingly easy to follow the entire summer, even from here in Virginia. The reason why? Primarily, it was due to Ovi’s endless schedule of public appearances, awards ceremonies, hockey clinics, government “obligations”, meet-and-greets, social engagements and the countless “selfies” and photo ops he agreed to throughout the entire summer.
For example, I was able easily follow a day trip Ovi made about a month or so ago to play in a charity hockey game just by the photos he took with fans, airport workers, flight attendants, drivers, restaurant owners, security guards, government dignitaries, hockey players, etc. You name it, these were the public bread crumbs that documented Ovi’s day. I could seemingly follow him from the front gate of his home in the morning until he returned later that night, whenever that was. And this went on ALL SUMMER LONG. I started to feel bad for Ovi. But one thing was certain, Ovi appeared to be extremely committed to each and every obligation, and he seemed to take great pride in the work he was doing.
Many (including myself) have also questioned Ovi’s late return to the Caps each fall, typically arriving in town a day or two prior to the start of training camp. However, this summer has shown me Ovi’s side of things in a much better light. While many of his Capitals teammates were working up a sweat at Ketller this past Saturday morning, Ovi was participating in yet another hockey clinic for underprivileged kids just outside of Moscow, which of course included seemingly endless amounts of photos, autographs and conversations with fans and dignitaries.
Simply put, Ovi gives a tremendous amount back to his native homeland (more than I ever imagined), which took up a great deal of his time this summer. By all accounts, Ovi will continue spending time with his fellow countrymen right up until he returns to Virginia in about a week or so. And you know what? that’s ok with me (not that it matters). I’ve gained even more respect for Ovi this summer – he’s a very patriotic man, simply trying to do as much as he can for his homeland in the relatively short amount of time he has away from the Washington Capitals.
By Jon Sorensen