[Happy Capitals fans are all alike; each unhappy Capitals fan, however, is unhappy in his or her own way. I’ve been in the "aortic valve dredged out with a backhoe" camp, but this translation of an article by Slava Malamud in today’s Sport-Express offers a fresh viewpoint from the miasma.]
At some point in time Alexander Ovechkin will win something very large and very important in hockey. I don't mean the Gagarin Cup (upon which his name will be engraved but which he didn't really win), or even the blithely forgotten and nameless Super League trophy he won as a 19-year-old during the last lockout, along with Pavel Datsyuk. And, of course, not a World Championship gold medal (which has the status of a consolation prize on the global hockey scale).
I mean that Cup which was purchased 100 million years ago (approximately, as I recall) in a London silversmith shop by the clerk of an English Lord and which, due to the silvered potbelly it has acquired over the years, now requires two hands to raise horizontally over your head.
In Russia these days they like to call it the "bucket" or "sauce pot" or some other inelegant object of country living, but it is fought for unlike any other sporting prize on earth. Even by Russians. Just ask Ilya Kovalchuk, even though he loves to sometimes inject an anti-western opinion into the Russian press on occasion (and even without occasion). But last year Ilyusha chewed up the ice for this very same "sauce pot" despite a sore back, and never once complained or even winced from the pain, lest, Bhudda forbid, his opponents got an inkling.
So let Ovechkin win this "watering can". The patriotic fervor at home will sooner or later pass (as is the fate of all trends enforced by temporary rulers), and many years from now when we watch, as sure as night follows day, the movie "The Legend of Number 8" more will be said about this achievement of Alexander than anything else. And I believe that this self-actualization in the sport is what he wants more than anything.
It has to be in seven games in some place like the Verizon Center, against some team such as Chicago, so that he, the first Russian captain of a champion team, could be summoned to the NHL commissioner who would cram into his shaking hands this bourgeois "sauce pot" currently thrice abhorred in Russia, and Ovechkin could say "Ah-ha-ha-ha!". And nobody in Russia would even think that it would be better if he could help national team coach Yashin in České Budějovice in the first tilt against East Slavonia.
And it seems to me that all of this will occur at some point. It is ridiculous to write off as a casualty the career of a player who hasn't yet turned 28 and who has just started revealing a new perspective in the game. Steve Yzerman and Ray Bourque waited a great deal longer and, by the way, in his time Steve was berated with basically the same words now scolding Alexander .
Well, clearly Alex isn't hiding in the trenches. His recent tirade about plots by the refs and the NHL can't be taken seriously by any normal person. Least of all since the same thing is said every year by the losers, and if Gary Bettman truly directed such a number of covert special operations, he would have been caught a long time ago in Moscow with a compass, blond wig and Slavic wardrobe. By the way, Rangers head coach John Tortorella was fined by Bettman a year ago for the exact same plot theory, but against the Blue Shirts. It seems "Good Old Gary" is so ominous and mysterious that even he doesn't know if he favors New York or secretly hates them.
But for Ovechkin this was simply letting off some steam, because the days when he could catch a buzz from all the hullabaloo are fading. He can still occasionally enliven press conferences with a treatise on the features and contents of his toilet bowl (this was in April), or go out in public wearing a t-shirt saying "I am the handsomest here again?" (January), but all of these are just brushstrokes in the portrait and far from the entire picture. There are far more gray hairs on Alex's head than he is entitled to have at his age, but inside his head maturity and judgment are slowly but surely emerging.
There will come a time when Ovechkin will be not so much a charismatic star as an example of professionalism. He will grind his teeth and surpass his real and imaginary enemies, and his team will follow behind him and he will reach his own personal Holy Grail, the "bucket" or "sauce pot" to those with short-sighted envy. Kovalchuk went through such a metamorphosis (but so far without the Grail). As did Malkin. As for Crosby, who we once hastily compared Ovechkin to, there wasn't any need. The lucky devil, he was already there.