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), an interview with his very first hockey coach, Alexander Filippov (here), and an interview with Alexei Kudashov, Ovechkin’s teammate at Dynamo Moscow, who went onto coach Ovechkin at the IIHC World Championships, and is the current Head Coach at Dynamo.
Alexei Kudashov played 25 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 1993-94 season, but played for Dynamo Moscow in the Russian Super League longer than anywhere else, specifically from the 1999-20 through 2004-05 seasons. During his last season as a player, he encountered a young teenager named Alex Ovechkin.
Photo: Sport24 Russia
“We met closely when he joined the first team, but we were all based together in Novogorsk [Dynamo training facility], both the first and second teams, so we constantly saw each other’s practices. So we knew who Ovechkin was, a young guy. And then he came to us and, like, never left there.”
By the time he was 18-years old, Ovechkin had already turned the heads of NHL clubs, and by the time the 2004 NHL Entry Draft arrived, he was a consensus number one selection, where the Washington Capitals selected him with the first overall pick.
“’He’s going to be a star’, back then no one could say that yet. Certainly, he was a promising young man who scored a lot of goals. But what’s important is that he combined his talent with work ethic. Separately, these components don’t turn a player into a star. But he did become one.”
Photo: Sport24 Russia
The Capitals’ captain plays the game on a nightly basis with a steely passion on every shift, which has fueled him through 17 seasons in the NHL.
“He could jump and run around or hop on someone. He was very emotional. That’s just the way he is, he’s all about emotions and desire to play. He never kept anything on the inside, that’s what’s important. He would let out his emotions in a number of ways. Ilya Nikulin was just like Ovechkin. They would celebrate wins real hard and get really down about losses. Everything they did was honest.”
“Without hard work, talent means nothing. It’s just 10% of success. He’s a workaholic. He works very hard. Talent has to go hand-in-hand with work ethic and devotion to hockey. He has a goal. He has an idea. It’s something he’s had at the offset. He’s very ambitious, he wants to be the best. He always wanted to win and to lead his team by example. All that energy that he’s had is about being at the top you know, to be the best, to make his team the best one, to score more goals than anybody else. To take more shots than anybody else, to be the fastest, to hit the hardest, and so on. …I believe the right upbringing played a huge role, he had a lot of respect for his mom and dad. They brought him up the right way and this is the result.
Ovechkin’s offensive prowess has been his reason for success at the NHL level, in which he has continuously moved up the league’s record books on a number of offensive fronts. His iconic slapshot from the left faceoff dot (often referred to as his “office”), has seen him become the league’s all-time leader in power play goals.
“He established his signature office only later in his career. And he had to earn his way on the power play unit. He always had a shot but what really made him special was his speed and his aggressiveness on the offense. He would crash the net, create a lot of scoring chances, go for the toe drag, try to beat the defenseman. He was able to do all that because of his physical condition and speed.”
The Capitals named Ovechkin as the 14th captain in franchise history on January 5, 2010, and he is the first European-born captain and longest-serving player to don the “C” in the club’s nearly 48-year history.
“You could tell one day he would become a captain. He definitely gave off that vibe. He oozed leadership. And, most importantly, he wasn’t self-centered, he understood the importance of being a team, of being a group and he always considered himself a part of the team.”
Ovechkin’s impact on the NHL and Russian hockey is a large one and not yet done, as the 2004 first overall pick continues to play at a level beyond his 36 years.
“First of all, he really loves hockey. He loves the game and gives it everything he had. Obviously, he now has a family as well. But you can still see how he hits the ice, how he plays, the spark in his eyes. That’s the most important thing. He has oozed energy since Day 1 and still does.”
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
Sport24: Interview with Alexei Kudashov Dynamo Moscow Teammate and Russian Team Coach
By Diane Doyle