Ahead of his feature interview this weekend, sports journalist Graham Bensinger spoke with our own Emily Bennett about traveling to Moscow, dealing with traffic, and shooting pucks with the Great 8.
Graham Bensinger knew that it would take some time to arrange an in-depth interview with Alex Ovechkin at his home in Moscow... and he certainly didn't think it would take five years. But half a decade later, once the schedules were aligned, the visas issued and the travel arrangements secured, Bensinger was treated to two solid days of Ovechkin family hospitality (and a lifetime's worth of Moscow traffic).
They spent the first day in Moscow, touring Ovi's apartment and then the Kremlin and Red Square. Then it was off to the Novogorsk national team (and Dynamo) practice facility, where Alex demonstrated a bit of his off-season training program. On the second day, Bensinger and his crew paid a visit to Ovechkin's "country house", a forty-minute ride that could be at least twice as long due to congestion. They toured the house and the "museum" which holds the memorabilia of a lifetime of hockey before heading out for a tour of the grounds, including the vegetable garden we all assumed he had... right?
The fancy brick basketball court, surrounded by years of Ovechkin advertising banners (hello Reebok ZigZag), also houses Alex's practice net and an incredible Dynamo shooter tutor, bruised and battered from years of Ovislappers. Bensinger stood in for everyone who has ever wanted to shoot pucks at nets with Alex the Gr8, cellying when he managed to get the puck on net with his first shot.
And finally it was time to to close out the interview, and the journey, with flips into the not-exactly-toasty-warm Ovipond.
So after spending two days with Alex Ovechkin in Russia, what did Graham Bensinger learn that he did not know? That AO is a great deal of fun, "just a big kid" who also is fiercely protective of his family and the memory of his late brother Sergei. That he is still determined to lead his team(s) to a championship, and that the training regimens for elite athletes are insane.
And yeah, traffic in Moscow is the worst.
Preview clips (and some bonus footage) are available here; the full episode will air on Saturday at 2:07 a.m. on WUSA-9 and will re-air on MASN on October 15th (2 a.m. and 10 p.m.) and October 20 at 1 a.m.