WASHINGTON – Alex Ovechkin has become one of the most famous people in the world in his profession – a genuine celebrity on multiple continents.
For all of the superstar's accomplishments on the ice with the Washington Capitals and for his native Russia, much of Ovechkin's life away from hockey and this city has been an unknown entity. A new 60-minute documentary entitled "Alex Ovechkin: The Gr8" will fill in some of those blanks, and Ovechkin was on hand Monday night at a local restaurant for a VIP launch party. [VIEW PHOTOS]
"I think fans know about me as a hockey player, but they don't know about me and my life and how I'm growing up," Ovechkin said. "They know I'm from Moscow, but they never see my school or my home and my family. They're going to see it and I think they're going to enjoy it."
Added David Abrutyn, Senior Vice President for IMG Consulting, which represents Ovechkin: "There was a commitment from the NHL and Warner Home Video to back to Moscow with him and see where Alex's roots are and where he came from. Everyone knows the creation story of Wayne Gretzky was in his backyard on an ice rink his dad made for him. If you watch this DVD, you'll see where the birthplace of Alex Ovechkin's hockey life was and I think it will surprise people how basic it really was and something kids around the world will be able to relate to."
Ovechkin was joined by about 100 people at Hudson, a posh restaurant and lounge on the edge of the DuPont Circle neighborhood in Washington, D.C. While it was an invitation-only event, fans were able to attend through radio giveaways and online contests.
There may have been an upscale vibe as people began to arrive, complete with a red carpet, but the event proved to be an intimate setting for Ovechkin to meet and converse with some of the people who have helped make his games at Verizon Center events of their own.
"We do have to close the place down for the night, but when the NHL comes calling we say yes as quickly as we can," said Alan Popovsky, a managing partner of Hudson. "I've always been huge hockey fan. I grew up in Philadelphia watching the Flyers in the 70s and when I moved down here in 1984, I immediately hooked up with the Caps and went to all the games. I went to all of those heartbreaking games and all the good ones, too. This is really special for me.
"The chef has to get everything ready. The bar has to be ready. The staff all had to be fitted with Ovechkin gear. There was a lot of work that went into it, but I think it is going great. I think he's actually enjoying himself too – sometimes you can go to one of these things and the star attraction is just mobbed with throngs of people, but the fans here have really had a chance to spend some time with him."
The documentary begins with Ovechkin's draft day, but focuses on the end of last season and how the Russian superstar spent his summer vacation. He does some of his own camera work at the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas with the help of a flip cam, and there are plenty of laughs while he tries to master his lines for a CCM commercial during a shoot in Miami.
But the big takeaway for hockey fans will be the time spent with Ovechkin in Russia. He shows off the apartment he grew up in, the streets where he learned to play hockey and then country home where his family spends summers outside Moscow.
"I think the most important thing and the most funny things are my vacation stuff," Ovechkin said. "Like my home, my parents, my friends are there and fans can see it."
The 2009-10 season did not end the way Ovechkin wanted with the Capitals losing to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Russia's loss to the Czech Republic in the gold-medal game of the world championships.
Toss in two weeks to forget in Vancouver at the Winter Olympics in February, and it was a dark period in what has otherwise been an incredible career for Ovechkin. This documentary ended up being part of how Ovechkin was able to move past those disappointments.
"[Fans] are going to see me and who I am," Ovechkin said. "I always tell what I think and I always tell where I am from so they are going to see it."