This morning, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin announced the passing of his father Mikhail, asking in a short statement for privacy. The team revealed in a statement from General Manager Brian MacLellan yesterday that Ovechkin would miss time due to the health of a loved one. In the hours after the news, Ovechkin’s teammates, peers, and others in the hockey community expressed their condolences for the Ovechkin Family.
TEAMMATES & CAPITALS ORGANIZATION
“It’s very tough obviously”, said Nicklas Backstrom, who has played the longest with Ovechkin since his (Backstrom) first season in 2007-08, “He’s [Mikhail] been around a lot and he’s been hanging around with Alex since I got here. He was here hanging around a lot with his dad…I can’t believe it. I feel for the whole Ovechkin family, it’s a tough day”.
When asked what he would remember most about Mikhail Ovechkin, who along with wife Tatyana, watched their youngest son climb the NHL record books over the last 18 seasons to become the league’s second all-time leading goal scorer, Backstrom did not hesitate to answer.
“The one thing I will always remember is he was always happy, he would always smile. We both didn’t speak English in the beginning so we both could understand each other with our hands. He was part of the beginning of when Alex got over here, he was always in the locker room, hanging out with the guys.”
“He loved that I think”, Backstrom continued, pausing, “That’s what he loved, to get hit by this sad news is obviously…it’s really tough. I really feel for the whole family, I can’t imagine what they’re going through.”
“The one thing I will always remember is that he was always happy. He would always smile.”
Nicklas Backstrom reminiscences on his relationship with Mikhail Ovechkin and the impact he had on the team’s locker room in the early years of Alex’s career. pic.twitter.com/ULIjgirZpD
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 15, 2023
While the overall sense of grief that gripped the organization was palpable, Ovechkin’s teammates iterated their support for their longtime captain.
“It’s emotional, but all we can do is be there for him like he’s been there for us”, right wing Tom Wilson, who has played his entire 10-season NHL career in Washington, said, “You never want to see a teammate go through that, but it’s a pretty tough time.”
“Obviously, it’s very sad what’s going on”, Head Coach Peter Laviolette said, indicating that Ovechkin had alerted the team to the situation via text message, “It’s just really sad, you pray for him and his family, obviously tough news.”
In 2021, right wing TJ Oshie lost his father Tim after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease, returning to the lineup and scoring a hat trick in his first game back without his father, despite a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night, Laviolette echoed Wilson’s sentiment about supporting the franchise’s best player.
“The fact they realize Alex isn’t here and what he’s done for the organization for so many years, we’ve got a responsibility to make sure we’re pushing through and doing the right things and winning games in his absence.”
Oshie also commented on Ovechkin’s absence in between periods of yesterday’s game against Carolina in an interview with Capitals Radio Play-by-Play announceter John Walton.
Hear T.J. Oshie talk about his first period goal from Joe Snively, and how Alex Ovechkin is very much in his thoughts tonight. Caps/Canes tied 1-1 after 20 minutes. pic.twitter.com/qlk3CHLKxj
— John Walton (@JohnWaltonPxP) February 15, 2023
Washington Capitals Majority Owner Ted Leonsis and his son Zach also expressed their sympathies and reflected on the life of Mikhail Ovechkin.
We all loved and respected Mr. Ovechkin. He loved DC, the Caps and our fans, steadfast in his support and love for both his sons, Alex and Mikhail, and wife Tatyana. Truly he will be missed. A great man and dad. We are all behind the Ovechkins at this time. https://t.co/0cwBoQepv1
— Ted Leonsis (@TedLeonsis) February 15, 2023
We send our warmest prayers and deepest condolences to the Ovechkin family as they mourn the passing of Alex’s father, Mikhail. Mikhail was an incredibly cordial person, and an amazingly supportive family man. He will be missed by many. #ALLCAPS
— Zach Leonsis (@ZacharyLeonsis) February 15, 2023
Mikhail Ovechkin was not always able to be in Washington for some of his son’s historic moments, however there was little doubt that he was immensely proud of his son, which was evident when Alex took the Stanley Cup home to Moscow following the team’s victory in 2018.
Mikhail Ovechkin was unable to travel to see the Capitals win the Stanley Cup in 2018 because of health reasons. This is the moment that summer when Alex brought the Cup to him at Dynamo Moscow’s training facility. As Mikhail said that day “Huge happiness.” pic.twitter.com/bdi4U2wDgc
— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) February 15, 2023
“I think usually it is the fathers that brings their kids to practices and stuff like that”, said Backstrom of the bond between Mikhail and Alex, “…They were so tight. I think their whole family is really tight, and always have been, and always will be. It’s not just the dad, the mom too, they’re a really close family, so it’s got to be devastating.”
“I wasn’t here when his dad was around [in Washington]” Laviolette echoed on the relationship between father and son, “Just some stories about how he loved being the in the practice facility, and loved being with the team and the players.”
“It’s always a special relationship with your dad. Oftentimes it’s your dad whogets you into the sport, back when you’re a little kid, that bond you have with your dad. Just a sad day, a tough day.”
The following is a saying by American poet Anne Sexton:
“It doesn’t matter who my father was; It matters who I remember he was.”
Mikhail Ovechkin, based on testimony from Alex Ovechkin’s teammates and the Capitals organization, will be fondly remembered as not only a loving father and family man, but someone who was as passionate about the game of hockey and the Washington Capitals as his son was on the ice.
We at NoVa Caps send our deepest condolences and sympathies to Alex and the Ovechkin Family.
By Michael Fleetwood
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