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The Debut of a Superstar

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Introducing... Alex Ovechkin (Mitchell Layton / Getty Images)
Introducing... Alex Ovechkin (Mitchell Layton / Getty Images)

This Friday the Caps will kick off the 2010-11 season, a potentially crucial one for the franchise in which they will either take a step forward or have to take a closer look at what has been built. But while Friday night's season opener against the Atlanta Thrashers could be seen as a big one, it won't come close to the importance of a game played exactly five years ago today.

October 5, 2005 - also known as the night Alex Ovechkin made his regular season NHL debut, a night that changed the course of a franchise and reintroduced hockey to Washington, DC.

When the Capitals selected Ovechkin first overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, they knew they were getting a once-in-a-lifetime talent and a generational superstar. They knew his skill, his character, his speed, his ability to knock an opponent down in one second and fire a puck past a befuddled goaltender the next. For the most part, however, fans in DC were still largely unaware of what they had in #8.

On the day of that historic first game local media presented the soon-to-be face of the franchise to the fans, regaling us with the stories that would later become common knowledge to Caps fans everywhere. We learned of his love for the San Jose Sharks growing up (because he liked the logo), of his soccer-playing father and basketball-playing mother whose number now adorned his back, of growing up playing hockey in Moscow and his desire to play in the best League in the world - and to win a Stanley Cup. 

If Ovechkin turns out to be the Capitals' top player, and he may well be right away, it could be enough to generate some interest in the team and its future. He could be that good. - Washington Post, 10/5/05

But it wasn't until he played that first game that all of us could see what we were in store for, and it started on his first shift. Alex Ovechkin, making his NHL debut, stepped onto the ice and immediately made his presence known with a thunderous check on Columbus defender Radoslav Suchy - a hit so hard it loosened the metal stanchion holding the glass in place and delayed the game for several minutes.

It was a memorable way to start a career...and he wasn't done. Just seven minutes later Ovechkin would show up on the scoreboard for the first of his 269 goals (and counting) in a Caps uniform:

Four minutes later he would add a second goal, again tying the game and giving the fans a reason to cheer in Washington once more.

His NHL debut played out in front of what was, at the time, a large crowd, with just over 16,000 fans in the house to witness the start of Ovechkin's tenure in DC. There would be larger crowds and greater moments to follow, flashier goals and tougher opponents, bigger hits and greater controversy. There would be smashed records and highlight reels and multiple trophies.

Still, for many of us who witnessed that first night - be it in person or on TV - it ranks as one of the best, most memorable Alex Ovechkin moments in a career littered with great ones (and with greater ones hopefully still ahead). It was the night that Ovechkin announced his arrival in the NHL and in Washington, and the night Caps fans began their love affair with the Great 8.
"I feel excellent. We win game, [my] first game in NHL and we win. So I feel very good. When I go out to ice for first time, I was a little bit nervous, all people screaming, it's amazing." - Alex Ovechkin