Photo: Sport24 Russia
Sport24 recently aired an extended feature on Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, as part of their series on the development of hockey stars from different parts of Russia. The feature included an interview with Ovechkin’s parents (here) and an interview with his very first hockey coach, Alexander Filippov.
Alexander Filippov recalled living near the Dynamo Sports Complex on Lavochkina Street, where the Ovechkins also lived. Many times he would go to the Sports Complex to watch the basketball games of Ovechkin’s mother, Tatyana. On one occasion he met Mikhail Ovechkin and had a conversation.
Filippov asked after a then-young Alex, “Where is the little one?”, to which Mikhail responded, “There he is – under the basketball hoop.”
“We need to do something with him. Misha, let me take him. Let him put him on skates and we’ll go from there.” At that time, Filippov coached six-year old children in hockey, but he was still willing to train Alex, even though he was already nine-years old.
Filippov recounted his memory of how long Ovechkin was officially assigned to his team.
“He skated on my team for a year. The kid made progress and it was time to put him on a team with peers [his age group].”
Ovechkin was then assigned to skate in the group led by Vyacheslav Kirillov, the coach for Ovechkin’s age group. During this time, he still continued lessons from Filippov and would have additional training from both coaches. Not even rain would stop Ovechkin from wanting to practice.
“That’s really what Alex is like. That’s why he’s a warrior. He’s always eager to play. Some kids would say they’re tired and don’t feel like playing…but not him. He was always ready. That’s just the way he is.”
Even now in his age-36 season in the NHL, Ovechkin’s clear passion and love for the game comes through on a nightly basis, from the way in which he celebrates a goal, or is motivated to do what it takes to win a hockey game.
“He’s an easygoing and fun guy. He’s always been friendly. He’s not a bully but knows how to stand up for himself. He’s a warrior when it comes to that. But he would never start a fight. Never. He wouldn’t back either if he was wronged. Sometimes he could get into scraps. He would get really emotional after a loss. He doesn’t like to lose at all.”
Ovechkin’s mother Tatyana was a two-time Olympic gold medalist in basketball, while his father Mikhail played soccer. Ovechkin’s relatively later start to skating, however, only drove him to catch up.
“That’s the kind of guy Alex is. When he first joined the team, the boys already had learned to skate but he wanted to catch up to them. That’s his mentality, ‘I have to be the best.’ I’m telling you. It’s his parents’ genes. Mostly Tatyana’s. When he was a kid, he wanted to be faster and stronger, so he would not skate but run and skip on the ice. I would always tell him, ‘Skate! Skate!’ He got a wide stride. His power, strength, and right ankle movement make his skating smoother. “He’s a bright guy. You have to know where you’re going to skate. You need to understand how to get there, how to hit, and so on. If you’re going to have a cool head, you can easily get banged up in every game and practice. You have to think.”
Filippov also discussed Ovechkin’s shot which he used to practice at his grandparents’ dacha. Ovechkin’s grandfather placed a metal sheet on the fence of the cottage and they would put a makeshift net around it where he would spend much time working on his shot.
“That’s Misha and Tatyana’s doing, they would work with him at their cottage. Misha would get a trash bin and line up the pucks so Alex could shoot; Misha deserves credit for this.”
Opposing netminders over the years have felt the wrath of Ovechkin’s famous one-timer on the power play, or a wrist shot from the slot, two ways in which he has compiled nine Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophies as the league’s leading goal-scorer.
“He just feels so comfortable. Shooting cannot be taught. Here, it seems, you show a hockey player how to shoot, but he still does it his own way. Sasha also developed his own style, because he shot a lot. Here it is important to feel the separation of the puck, each has its own. But as soon as you feel it, everything will go right away.”
When Ovechkin inked a five-year deal with the Capitals prior to the 2021-22 season, the potential of breaking the NHL record in Goals Scored, held by the game’s greatest player Wayne Gretzky, was no doubt a goal of the man affectionately referred to as The Great Eight.
“Even if he stays healthy and keeps playing, it’s not going to be easy but he can do it.”
Alex Ovechkin’s Parents Recount His Dedication To Hockey At A Young Age
Sport24: From First Coach — Ovechkin Great Shot Credited to Parents Efforts
Sport24: Interview with Ovechkin’s First Coach
By Diane Doyle