Mark Messier ranks second all-time in NHL points and seventh in goals, but he never led the league in either category. That fact made it even more impressive to see the Hall of Famer present Alex Ovechkin
with the Art Ross Trophy and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Ovechkin’s 112 points and 65 goals both led the NHL in 2007-08, his third season, earning him the two prestigious awards. He is the first Capital to claim either one and the first Russian to claim the Art Ross Trophy. He is just the second player to capture both honors, although the Richard Trophy has only been awarded since 1999.
“It’s a great honor to be here and to win these awards,” he said. “It was a special season for us, to go from last place to the playoffs and make it on the last day.”
Ovechkin was honored at an awards ceremony held on the afternoon of Game 3 in a lavish two-story ballroom at the Omni William Penn Hotel, just blocks from Mellon Arena. Also present were Vincent Lecavalier and Trevor Linden (NHL Foundation Award recipients) and Mats Sundin (Mark Messier Leadership Award recipient). Detroit Red Wings goaltenders Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek were also honored as the Jennings Award winners for the fewest goals against in the season.
Bill Clement emceed the event and introduced an Ovechkin highlight reel before bringing Messier to the stage for the presentation.
The trophies were the first two of four major awards Ovechkin could win for his spectacular 2007-08 campaign. He could join Messier as a Hart Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award winner when those two most valuable player honors are handed out at the NHL Awards Show June 12.
In the meantime, Ovechkin’s brief stop in Pittsburgh included an hour of interviews and photographs after the ceremony. After taking questions from reporters at a podium in front of the trophies, Ovechkin – in typical “Ovie” style – turned and snapped a few photos of the awards he had just won with his cell phone.
Ovechkin spoke one-on-one with TSN’s Off the Record, the NHL Network, ESPN.com and the Swedish television station that has former Cap Calle Johansson providing color commentary of the finals. He also sat down for interviews with Lisa Hillary of Comcast SportsNet and Corey Masisak of the Washington Times.
Ovechkin got a short break in the afternoon before heading to Mellon Arena to watch Game 3 in a suite with Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Being at the Stanley Cup final without his Capitals teammates was bittersweet for Ovechkin, no matter how many trophies he took home.
“Any awards you can win are big,” he said, “but the biggest Cup isn’t mine yet.
“I plan to be back,” he added. “And playing, not watching.”