Book cover art courtesy John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
[When asked on Japers' Rink Radio this past weekend how he thought his forthcoming unauthorized biography of Alex Ovechkin would be received by Caps fans, co-author Damien Cox answered, "A hardcore fan who just wants to hear good things about their team [isn't] going to be happy," but "people who are looking for a more complete picture of this guy [will] really enjoy an independent look."
The book hits shelves in November (you can pre-order it now through the publisher or online retailers), and you'll have a chance to judge it for yourself. But to tide you over until then, here's the second of two excerpts we'll be sharing this week...]
By the end of his second season in the NHL, Crosby was still far and away hockey’s biggest moneymaker off the ice. That didn’t sit well with Ovechkin. Don Meehan’s Newport Sports agency had helped set up and negotiate signing shows and they fetched hand some sums of money for little more than attendance. Crosby didn’t do anything like that and still, with his endorsements and licensed collectibles, he made two or three bucks for every dollar Ovechkin earned away from the rink. Ovechkin and his parents were impatient with this situation and not satisfied that Newport Sports was doing everything possible to get him into the market. And the way the market had heated up for NHL player salaries, they also knew that the stakes with his next contract were going to be very high: his four-year entry-level contract called for a little under $1 million in a base salary and paid out another $3 million in bonuses and incentives, but the Ovechkins were looking at more than doubling this number as soon as they could negotiate an extension. With this looming, the Ovechkins sent word to Meehan that his services would no longer be needed. They abruptly terminated Ovechkin’s player-representation contract with Newport.
It was certainly something Ovechkin was entitled to do. Players break up with agents frequently—getting out of a standard representation agreement is not much more difficult than peeling off a sweater at the end of a game.
Still, this seemed a cold-blooded business decision. The decision put no value on Meehan’s work negotiating his entry-level contract after the lockout—the Capitals had a very brief window to sign Ovechkin before the 2005–06 season and if they had failed to get a deal done within a 48-hour period, Ovechkin was going to have to spend the entire winter in Moscow. The decision put no value whatsoever on the TLC Newport had offered Ovechkin in his rookie season with the Capitals. Anna Goruven’s daughter, Susanna, had moved to Washington back in the fall of 2005 to help Ovechkin get around town and serve as his translator—it was exactly the kind of thing that Anna Goruven had done for her clients and they had all loyally stood by her. It seemed it was going to be the same with Ovechkin and Susanna. He had made a point of thanking her when he accepted the Calder Trophy at the NHL awards night in 2005. "Susanna does a great job, support me all season," he told the audience. "She’ll be with me sometimes [to] help me buy car, food. She cooks me food, cleans my house, so thanks very much, Susie." But by the end of his second season, with his parents in Washington and Susanna Goruven’s help no longer needed on a daily basis, all she had done for him was behind him, and Ovechkin and his family weren’t looking in the rearview mirror.
Ovechkin’s dismissal of Meehan and Newport was a sharp contrast to Crosby’s story once again. … "The Crosby family had a plan and they stayed with it," hockey marketing executive Brad Robins said. In Ovechkin’s first two seasons, there hadn’t been one plan—there had been new ones all the time, because of a shifting circle of friends and advisors, mostly Russian-speaking, not affiliated with Newport. Ovechkin had been easily swayed by the last person he spoke with. Meehan, Goruven, and others at Newport had often been drowned out by the hangers-on and by the end of his second season they were cut out completely.
Reprinted by permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from The Ovechkin Project: A Behind-The-Scenes Look at Hockey’s Most Dangerous Player, by Damien Cox and Gare Joyce. Copyright © 2010 by Damien Cox, Gare Joyce.