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As the NHL heads towards a lockout, players are preparing to scatter across the globe. Here's one way Alex Ovechkin can make the most of the situation - and do some real good.
As the calendar moves the hockey world ever-closer to the brink of yet another work stoppage, talk of potential temporary landing spots for the planet's best players is picking up steam. Perhaps driven in equal parts by a desire to show NHL owners that they do, in fact, have other options and the realization that their careers as professional athletes are short while their time as bill-paying adults is much longer, destination speculation is all the rage these days.
The young'uns will head to the AHL, the Europeans to their respective home countries (even if Sweden doesn't want to go along with the plan), and the North American veterans... eh, somewhere. Easy enough, and made all the easier by the KHL rolling out the red carpet for short-timing NHL ringers.
All of which naturally brings us to Alex Ovechkin (because all roads lead to Ovi).
By way of background, the president of Ovechkin's former club (his beloved Dynamo Moscow), recently said that he'd be against bringing the team's most-famous alum back during an NHL lockout, calling such a move "unnecessary" and apparently telling Ovechkin's mother as much. Dynamo's GM was a bit more measured in his comments, noting "to pay crazy salary [for Ovechkin] is wrong." KHL goon squad Vityaz Chekhov has expressed interest (likely as a publicity stunt), but reports also have well-financed CSKA Moscow in the mix, which prompted KHL president Alexander Medvedev to clarify the League's position:
Medvedev insisted that Dynamo should have first refusal on the 26-year-old wing in the event of a lockout, despite reported interest from big-spending CSKA Moscow, Medvedev said.
"Of course there's a formal bureaucratic side which can be disputed sometimes, but there's also a moral-ethical side," Medvedev said.
"I don't think anyone will dispute the moral rights of Dynamo to the player Alexander Ovechkin."
But since Medvedev brought morality and ethics into the conversation (no doubt the flip side of Dynamo's "moral right" is Ovechkin's "moral obligation"), here's an idea: Alexander Ovechkin should tell Dynamo, CSKA and Medvedev to kick rocks and make public overtures about his desire, should the NHL lock its players out, to play for... Lokomotiv Yaroslavl for a League-minimum salary.
In one fell swoop, Ovechkin would do wonders for his public image (which, in case you haven't noticed, has taken a bit of a hit over the past two-and-a-half years or so), insulate himself from legitimate criticism for his decision, save himself the potential embarrassment of being shunned by his former club or not fetching a salary commensurate with his superstardom and, most importantly, help a team and a fan base still recovering from one of the most devastating tragedies imaginable (one in which Ovechkin himself "lost a lot of friends."). As wonderful an effort as Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk hosting a charity exhibition might be, imagine the country's biggest star wanting to pull on that Lokomotiv sweater for meaningful games (where he'd be reunited with at least three former Caps teammates... if not more).
It's a pipe dream, of course (actually, it's a pipe nightmare, thinking about the mass exodus of NHL talent to the far reaches of the globe), as Ovechkin is fiercely loyal to Dynamo and perhaps to the almighty ruble as well. But as stories go, this would be a nice one at a time that hockey fans could use it, and one that would do a lot of good for a lot of people... including Alex Ovechkin.