Alex Ovechkin seemed to be in good spirits following his always-entertaining appearance at the All-Star Game in Raleigh. So much so that he was unusually glib with the cadre of Russian reporters in the locker room afterwards. Intrepid
globe-state-trotting reporter Slava Malamud was lucky enough to be amongst the recipients of the Great Eight's rhetorical largess and shared these notes in today's issue of Sport-Express.
Ovechkin is more serious right now, just after the end of the All-Star game, than he has been all weekend. He is walking around the dressing room of "Team Staal" with an incredibly anxious look on his face, clutching a felt-tip pen in his hand and saying something to himself. The Russian forward enthusiastically collects souvenirs, and right now he is getting autographs of his teammates-on his game jersey. When he entered the arena on the red carpet on Saturday, Ovechkin was the one signing all the autographs, but now he has decided to play the role of enthusiastic fan.
By the way, he isn't alone in this. His Washington partner Mike Green also packed a heavily graffitied jersey into his bag, and Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist ripped his nameplate from his locker and has hidden it away somewhere.
Meanwhile, Ovechkin has been dragged into a dense circle of journalists, from within which he fearlessly hews at English-language questions. In Russian, Alexander also spoke with gusto, and for the benefit of Washington's press-attaché he was more than generous on this occasion.
"Somehow we scored four goals really quickly" Ovechkin recalls the beginning of the match. "And immediately thought: ‘Well, this is going to be easy'. And then, well you saw for yourselves."
What are your impressions right now?
"Everything went great! It was a great atmosphere. Only I didn't have much playing time. I played around 15 minutes, but I wanted 30."
Why did you toss your stick at Duchene's feet?
"Just for fun. Plus, there had never before been a penalty shot in an All-Star game, so now I've gone down in history."
So you were thinking to yourself, ‘Hey, let's go down in history!' ?
"I thought, ‘Why the heck not?'. It was funny, and the fans liked it. It was a good All-Star game moment."
And you didn't want to take a penalty before it was over?
"No, that wouldn't do any good. I wanted to check somebody into the boards, but I never got a chance."
It seemed that you tried to play more with your partners than to score yourself. For example, you tried to help Staal make a goal.
"Yeah, I wanted him to make his fans happy. The same thing happened when Kovalchuk played in Atlanta, and everybody was working for him, and he didn't score. It's a good thing that at least Staal was able to."
Did you like the new format better than the "East vs. West"?
"Yeah, it's a fun format. I think that next time it will be even more fun."
And you weren't jealous of the captains? Did you not want to run the draft yourself?
"No, that is actually a difficult task."
So you aren't putting in your candidacy for "Team Ovechkin" in the 2012 All-Star games in Ottawa?
"Well, let me get there first! And with the way I'm playing..."
What was your favorite of all the All Star games?
"First place, of course, would be Montreal in 2009."
Because of Malkin, the glasses and the hat?
"No, because of all of it-the atmosphere, the city, the excitement. There were a lot of Russians there."
Dadonov's team asked him to bring 30 t-shirts. Were you also given an order?
"Green and I bought baseball caps for everyone. That's what I always do."
Is collecting autographs also one of your traditions?
"Yeah. I'll hang the jersey up at home. And the entire team also signed my gloves."
Now the fun has ended, and once again you have to prepare yourself to fight in the regular season. And the season has not yet met expectations..
"Let's talk about expectations at the end of the season. I don't agree right now with those who say it won't turn out well. We are in the playoff zone, and we are fighting. And everything else will be decided in the Cup matches."
Soon will be the KHL All-Star game. Will you be following it?
"I won't have an opportunity. I'm not going to get up in the middle of the night just for this. But I will watch the highlights later on the internet."
Yesterday, league bosses Bettman and Daly said that a decision concerning NHL teams traveling to Russia has still not been made. Would you like to lobby right now for a Washington game in Moscow?
"I vote yes! With both hands! For our fans, for my family and for my friends this would be simply super. There has never been anything like an NHL season-opening game in Russia. It would be an enormous holiday."
Bettman is afraid of a variation which sends the Rangers to Siberia. They say it is too far to fly.
"Yeah, well, is it really so much easier here? When you fly to Los Angeles it's six hours... I think in the end everything will be resolved positively. And our assignment will be to play well."
Carolina complained that the SKA players treated the exhibition game a little too seriously and tried to injure the Hurricane stars. And how would Washington react to such a game?
"I wouldn't want to say anything about that right now. First we have to get there, and then you could ask such questions."