The great Slava Malamud explodes with a big Alex Ovechkin interview for Sport-Express, Feb. 11, 2010:
You are still playing in the NHL, but the Olympics are getting closer and closer. Very soon the friends from your team will be your rivals, and your rivals will become your friends ...
Yes, it's kind of funny. You look at the guys in the locker room and couldn't help thinking that soon we will play against each other. And we'll play hard against each other. We'll hit each other. It's a little strange, yes.
And what's your way of tuning up yourself before the important games or the tournaments?
Yes way or no way, I just go out and play. This is more for the goalies, they have some rituals, but the goalies are very different from everyone else. Well, for me it's probably like listen to some good music before the game. I usually put a good hip-hop music and tune up myself for the game. if you like some music, it will start you up. It's always more fun when you warm with some music than just warm up without anything. That's all.
Do you tune up yourself psychologically? Even now, when the Olympics have not started yet?
Well certainly you have a feeling that very soon you'll be in Vancouver. I will represent my country so, of course, I thought about it already.
And what kind of thoughts did you have? Was it because you had something to remember, at least about Turin or at least about Quebec?
No, it's all closed for me, the last Olympics, whatever, I do not want to analyze it at all. And it's not just because we didn't play well though there were some good games. It's simple, why do I have to look back?
To learn something out of it. Datsyuk, for example, said that the team got yourself psychologically relaxed after the win vs Canada.
I have another point of view, but that's OK. Everybody has their own opinion. I just don't want to recall it.
It was not that bad. For example, you've scored on Brodeur...
Yes, it was the most important goal in my career, so far the number one!
Was it more important than that impossible goal [the goal] vs. Phoenix? Was it more important than the spin-o-rama goal vs. Montreal? Was it more important than all of your hat-tricks?
Of course. It turned out to be the very important goal of the game vs. Canada, and at that moment I was playing for my country.
Do you have your "perfect" goal? The one that you most often dream about?
I do not want to dream about the "perfect" goal. I'd rather recall it later. As of a perfect goal? How about the one in the empty net at the last second? It would be the easiest and it could guarantee the victory.
What is more important to you, to win the Olympics or the Stanley Cup?
Right now I have the chance to win the Olympics, so at the moment it is very important. And actually I'd leave "what is more important" question without a comment. I am a professional, and all other players are too. We are all fighting for the victory in any kind of the tournament.
You already know what it is to beat Canadians on the Canadian ice. Can you share your feelings?
You beat Canadians in Canada and especially in the finals, and especially in the overtime! And especially when you were behind almost the entire game! If you snatch such kind of victory... What do you think? When I recall it I still have the goose bumps. This is the the total happiness. This is what you will never forget. This is what you will carry with you for the rest of your life.
Ok, now imagine it all and add the Olympics to the mix. What do you think?
Then you can simply jump from the tenth floor and cry on the way, "We are the champions!" You have not lived in vain...
You see? I think it's pretty clear that the Olympics are more important to you.
Well, well... The Olympics and the Stanley Cup are very different on their importance.
Could you explain?
Over there I play for the national team. So I can imagine all people, all of my friends and acquaintances. All of the people throughout my country and in my country. As of the Stanley Cup, there are at most one hundred thousand people who'd root for me. I am referring to those who root for the team, not for me personally.
How could you describe the national team of Russia as of today?
It is the TEAM. I mean it is the real team. The team without which you are nothing, no matter what kind of star you are.
Each team has some kind of face. And certainly from the ice it can be seen differently than from the stands or on TV. Can you share your thought on that?
After all the main rival to our team is ourselves. If we could play like we want to, like we can, like we should, then nobody would be able to cope with us.
Let's reminisce the Quebec-2008. There, as the Canadians themselves admitted, everyone was waitng for your team's failure and you did not fail. Why? It used to be the national team would fail in less severe situations.
You know, there were a lot of different circumstances that helped us not to fail. The main thing was that at the end of the second period we were in the right rhythm. We switched to the three lines. This was just the right pace that you need when your team is behind, especially when the emotions are high. In such situations you forget that you're tired, you don't follow the score, you look forward to be on ice constantly. And if the coaches give you this opportunity by switching to the three lines, this is when you begin to overtake the opponent. You just go ahead of their pace. So we had caught up with them. That was the one thing. And the other was that we got lucky as well...
You say as if it was an isolated case. As for reporters and fans at that time it looked like a new face of team Russia. The mean one, the furious one, the one that Ovechkin has when he is on the ice.
Maybe. But the circumstances were still on our side. We were also in a better shape than the Canadians. It was noticeable, they all "died" at the end. And what about this, a coincidence, no? In the first period we had a ton of undeserved penalty minutes, but we didn't have any of those at the end. By the way, I am pretty sure that in Vancouver we'll have to go through this again. I think we must be ready to the possibility of unfair officiating that will not allow us to play our type of the hockey game.
Do you think that the refs would be biased towards certain teams?
I don't know about bias, but, you know, the refs are the people who are totally unpredictable. They can decide the outcome of any game with a single whistle. They can wave off the goal, for example. They can penalize you when there was nothing. Nobody can say anything to them. The episode eventually will be forgotten, but the result will remain forever. All I want to say is that the matter of fair or unfair officiating could be a huge factor.
What do you feel about this, one referee is from Europe, the other one is from the NHL?
I don't think it will change anything. Some refs will be doing it in European way, some refs will do it in a North American way, but the refs will always be the refs.
What do you think about the team Canada?
Why we talk just about Canada? Why not the Czechs, for example?
Russia vs. Canada is almost the trademark of the hockey. Without this competition hockey as a sport would be very different.
I won't deny that everyone dreams about this kind of [Olympic] finals. We simply have the situation where we should stop dreaming, we must play where the game will take us, from one moment to another.
By the way, Don Cherry is not tired of saying that you are Canadian by the spirit and all his countrymen must strive to become like Ovechkin.
I am Russian. I am not Canadian.
But you yourself said, "I'm 'hit and gun' type of player."
I said it figuratively, jokingly. I think I am rather "run and gun" type... Seriously, I don't like these definitions. What about Wayne Gretzky? Was he "run and gun"? Or Mario Lemieux? Or Jerome Iginla? Or Crosby? What is "run and gun"? And where Canada is in this discussion? Let's not oversimplify.
Speaking of Crosby. You have now a lot more assists than he has, though he must have more just because he plays center. You are among the league leaders. But back in Turin you never got a primary assist. What has suddenly happened to you?
Well, I just shoot and the others use the bounces.
And to continue mentioning Crosby, Vancouver could be your chance to once and forever win in this personal duel.
I'll try to prove it if, God grants, we both will be in the finals. But actually I want to win rather than to prove anything.
The short tournaments are often have been decided by the ggoalkeepers. Which of them are you most afraid of?
Brodeur is in the first place. And then there's another Canadian, Luongo. When he played in the East Conference I had problems to score on him.
And what about the rest? If anyone should rely on the goalkeeper, these should be non-favorites. Just like it was with Hasek in 1998.
And why, for example, the Swedes are not the favorites? .. Their goalie, Lundqvist, I just know him better than others and I think he is an awesome goalie.
The Olympics will be in Canada. The main sport in Canada is hockey. Hence, the main star of the hockey tournament will be the main man at the Olympics. Are you ready?
I don't think about it. I never think of stardom.
Oh, well. You can't get away from it in Washington, can you? I would even say that you like the stardom. And we are always happy to play along with the public.
Well, how to live without it? Should I hide from the fans? But one shouldn't give too much to it. Every person has someone who loves him and someone who hates him. So when I go out on the ice, I know that in Washington people like me. And in some other cities they are not. What it is, is what it is.
I doubt that you are such a philosopher when you are on the ice. They hate you in Buffalo and you don't miss the chance to show that you know it.
Yes, it was only once, when I put a hand to the ear after the goal. I don't know, I think I digest how the audience treates me and react in my own way as the output. But now we are discussing my body, right?
Since you became the captain of a month ago Washington has lost only one game. Does that says a lot about you? Especially before the Vancouver games?
I play like I always do. Again, coincidence. And in Vancouver Morozov will be the captain. And anyway, what's the difference? We are all aware that one mistake in the Olympic tournament can cost us everything. You don't have to stand up and say something, it's not necessary.
In North American sports is often the case that the star of the team gives some promises to the fans before an important match or tournament, even the victory. Are you ready to cause the fire to yourself and for what you can promise?
I can promise to the fans that team of Russia will fight to the end in every game and play only for the victory. And let's not think about the medals other than the gold ones.