ARLINGTON, Va. — Alex Ovechkin stood in front of the media Wednesday sounding and looking like a different man, and not just because he had shaved off his Stanley Cup Playoff beard.
During Ovechkin’s first 12 seasons with the Washington Capitals, this day of exit interviews and end-of-year medical exams became one for trying to explain a playoff failure. This one, after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 43-season history, was almost a joyous occasion.
“Every year when you come back here when you lose, you stand here with a bad face, not smiling,” Ovechkin said. “Even if you smile, it’s like, ‘OK, whatever.’ But right now, you just realize what we did. It’s something special.”
The 32-year-old forward has been smiling a lot in the days since the Capitals won the Stanley Cup with a 4-3 victory against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on June 7.
Ovechkin and his teammates have seemingly been everywhere with the Cup, celebrating in private and also in public to give Capitals fans a chance to be involved. That culminated with a parade and rally in downtown Washington on Tuesday.
“I still can’t believe we won. I still can’t believe we did it,” said Ovechkin, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP after leading the NHL with a Capitals-record 15 goals. “We shared our happiness, our emotions, our Stanley Cup with all of you guys, you know, all the family, all the fans.”
The Capitals captain plans to continue sharing the Stanley Cup with the people when he has his day with it in Moscow this summer.
“It’s going to be pretty big,” Ovechkin said of his Stanley Cup party in Russia. “I’m going to share it with my family, with my friends, with the people who want to see it. … But I’m pretty sure it’s going to be something spectacular, something fun.”
The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins Thursday in Russia and runs through July 15, with 11 cities hosting games, including Moscow, where the final will be played. Ovechkin said he would love to bring the Stanley Cup to a World Cup game but doesn’t know if that’s feasible.
He said the logistics for his day with the Stanley Cup have yet to be worked out.
“We’re going to have to decide how we’re going to do it, where we’re going to do it,” he said. “And I just want to share it with the people who love hockey, who have never seen the Stanley Cup, or they’ve seen it because lots of Russian players won it. … But, obviously, for my hockey school in Dynamo, I’m going to bring it for the kids to see that.”
Ovechkin recalled playing for the Moscow Dynamo when Igor Larionov, who won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 1997, 1998 and 2002, visited to talk about his experiences playing in the NHL and winning the Cup. Ovechkin, who was 14 at the time, decided then that was an experience he wanted.
“One day, I wanted to be in his position to raise the Cup and, in the future, I will share this moment with some kids,” Ovechkin said. “Because when you’re a kid, you don’t know what your life is going to be, who you’re going to be. Of course, you dream to be a professional athlete or a very good businessman or whatever. My dream was to be a hockey player, to be a good hockey player, win the Cup, win lots of trophies, and right now I’m standing with you guys and this moment is something special. It’s unbelievable.”
Ovechkin believes it will be special for his family too.
“I want to bring the Stanley Cup to my house, to my family back home to share,” he said. “My grandma, she will touch it. She will kiss it. It’s something special. You never thought how cool it is. Of course, you have dreams about it, but this is something unbelievable. Even today when me and my wife were with the Cup, (it was) like, ‘Is it real or is it a dream?’ It’s real. We won.”
It will be a busy offseason for Ovechkin with his wife, Nastya, expecting the couple’s first child. He plans to stay in the United States through the NHL Awards Presented by Hulu in Las Vegas on June 20, and then fly home to Moscow.
“We’re going to spend one month in Russia and come back here to get ready for the child,” he said. “And get ready for next year.”
Ovechkin was hesitant to share details about Nastya’s pregnancy but is clearly looking forward to becoming a father.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” he said.
Winning the Stanley Cup won’t top that, but Ovechkin has enjoyed these moments as if he’s been waiting for them his entire life. When a member of Washington’s public relations staff attempted to end his media scrum, Ovechkin insisted it continue.
“When you win the Stanley Cup, you win it with your teammates and with the fans, with the trainers or with the coaches, even with you guys (the media),” he said. “You guys was with us most of the time, so by the way, you have to take a ring too.”