Sport24 recently aired a feature on Alex Ovechkin, as part of a series about the development of hockey stars from different parts of Russia. One of the topics discussed in the feature was Ovechkin’s dedication to hockey, even at a very early age, where his parents provided their perspective.
His parents, Mikhail and Tatiana, cited several instances of how dedicated Alex was to hockey. Even when young, Ovechkin had figured out that the curvature of a stick blade made a difference in performance. His mother recalled one incident in particular. She laughs while retelling the story but the incident caused logistical issues at the time.
“… He would heat up the blades of his sticks in the kitchen and bend them to give the curve he wanted. One time we were about to go overseas and we left our passports on the kitchen counter next to a bottle of sunflower oil. Sasha [Alex] was in the kitchen, heating and bending his sticks as usual. We wake up in the morning and see the passports are drenched in sunflower oil. He accidentally hit the bottle with his stick and poured it over our passports. They were ruined and we had to leave in a week. Somehow we managed to get new ones really fast. I had to go to Dynamo and ask them to get me new passports. It was quite a story.”
Tatiana also remembered that she and her husband would discuss their son’s games with him and his strong interest in hockey.
“…We would analyze his games – it didn’t matter if he won or lost. We would point out the positives and the negatives. Of course, his coach would point out his mistakes every now and then. But what’s important is that Alex listened to his advice. He was obsessed with hockey. He watched a lot of games. Mikhail Viktorovich [Ovechkin’s father] would take him to every Dynamo game. He would watch all of them and single out which players he liked. He would watch hockey reruns. He would watch old timers games. He would memorize what he saw on the ice and then try to do the same, “What if I do this. What if I do that?” Long story short, he loved hockey. He worked relentlessly to get good at the sport.”
Mikhail Ovechkin interjected, “I remember how we got a video tape called Gretzky’s Skating. There were shooting drills in there as well. It was a practice video and he would watch it.”
Mikhail recounted a typical day when Ovechkin was around 13 or 14.
“..He loved hockey very much. Sometimes he would even practice two or three times per day. We had an apartment near Selskokhozyaystevnnaya Street. There’s a stadium next to a hotel over there. His mom would pack a few sandwiches, a thermos full of tea and we would go there. The kids would play at a soccer field and I would sit in the car because it was cold outside. Alex would practice outside and run about with the other kids. They would leave to do their homework but he would stay out there the whole day. I would go to every practice with him. Even when he was on a pro team or Team Russia or abroad. There’s a hall in Novogorsk [Dynamo Moscow and Team Russia practice facility complex]. I would sit there along with Dynamo players’ fathers. Once [Coach] Bilyaletdinov walks past me and says, ‘Misha, would it kill you to bang out five guys like him?’”
Mikhail also remembered that if his son earned a poor grade in school, she would say, “That’s it. You’re not going to practice tomorrow.” Sasha would then start crying right away, “I’m going to fix it. I’m going to fix it.”
Tatiana was not surprised that Alex became an athlete and also talked about the family motto – to never give up.
“The epigraph to Veniamin Kaverin’s novel ‘Two Captains’ says, “Battle, search, find. Never give up.” The motto has followed our family throughout the life. We realized the boy would turn out to be an athlete. He had the knack for it. He was great at all sports. But he chose hockey and everything turned out for him the way it should have. He’s a true athlete so his successful career in sports doesn’t come as a surprise to me or Mikhail Viktorovich. Alex was the kind of player you didn’t have to scout because he stood out. He’s a true athlete.”
Sport24: Interview of Mikhail and Tatyana Ovechkin
By Diane Doyle