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Summer with Stanley

Ovechkin surprises tourists by taking Stanley Cup to Red Square

Capitals captain makes unannounced visit to iconic Moscow site

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

MOSCOW -- Alex Ovechkin gave stunned tourists in Red Square the surprise of their lives when the Washington Capitals captain walked in carrying the Stanley Cup on Sunday.

Unlike his first day with the Cup in Moscow on Saturday, Ovechkin spent most of Sunday out of the spotlight in private moments, including a visit to his childhood apartment. 

The lone exception was a stop in Red Square to have his photo taken raising the Cup with historic St. Basil's Cathedral in the background.

"It's a special moment," Ovechkin said. "I'm in my hometown where I grew up, where all of this happened. Today, it's incredible. We spend lots of energy, we spend lots of time to figure out what to do in a certain moment in a certain minute, but I think it's worth it."

Video: Ovechkin visits Red Square with the Stanley Cup

Ovechkin, 32, created his own flash mob with the unannounced visit to Moscow's most iconic site. It lasted 15 minutes from the moment he emerged from a police cruiser carrying the Cup toward Red Square at about 5:30 p.m. Moscow time until his exit. It ended with him placing the Cup in the back seat of the police car before getting in the front seat and being whisked away from the remainder of the massive horde that trailed him.

Some onlookers initially did a double take when they saw Ovechkin walk past them carrying the Cup. He soon had a flock of followers running alongside and around him, trying to take a photo of him and the Cup with their smartphones.

Some shouted their congratulations in Russian, telling him, "Great job, Sanya!", using his Russian nickname. Ovechkin lifted the Cup over his head a few times while walking and the crowd cheered.

"The amazing thing is they saw him before they saw the Cup," Hockey Hall of Fame Cup keeper Mario Della-Savia said. "And they get very, very, very excited about Alex Ovechkin."

One fan shouted out in English, "Washington Capitals, Stanley Cup champions!" Another watching from inside Football Park, a temporary interactive fan experience set up in the middle of Red Square for the World Cup, yelled, "Go Knights!"

That was a reference to the Vegas Golden Knights, who Ovechkin and the Capitals defeated in five games in the Stanley Cup Final to win the first championship in Washington's 43-season history. Ovechkin won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by scoring a Capitals record 15 postseason goals.

Like in the playoffs, Ovechkin was a man on a mission at Red Square. He ignored pleas for him to stop and take photos or sign autographs when he bulled through the crowd on his way to the center of the square. When he stopped, Capitals vice president of communications Sergey Kocharov and Ovechkin's agent, David Abrutyn, helped clear an opening so Ovechkin could pose for photos for a small group of photographers and media that accompanied him.

Tourists jockeyed for position, some shoving others out of the way, to get their own photos of Ovechkin raising the Cup.

"I don't know if it was me or the Stanley Cup, but both of us give all attention to this situation, so it was a special moment," Ovechkin said. "It's nice to see when the people understand what you want to do. They take a step back and we take, I think, it was a good picture. But that picture, that video, my friends were at the bar and they sent it to me. The picture, how I walk in and how many people were behind me. It was incredible."

After about two minutes, Ovechkin headed back in the direction he came toward Ulitsa Okhotnyy Ryad, the street where the police car was waiting. Those who followed Ovechkin until the end tried to take more photos of him through the tinted windows of the police car before it drove away.

That was by far the most hectic segment of Ovechkin's day after Saturday was filled with public appearances, including posing for more than 3,000 photos with fans at the FIFA World Cup Fan Fest and a visit to Dynamo Moscow's Training Center.

Ovechkin began his Sunday by bringing the Cup to a private ice rink where he had lunch with Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and Hockey Hall of Fame members Viacheslav Fetisov and 2018 inductee Alexander Yakushev. After that, he returned to the apartment he lived in while growing up in Moscow and laid down with the Cup in a bed in his childhood bedroom. He did similar with the Cup at his home in Virginia last month.

"I slept with the Cup a little bit, 10 seconds maybe," he said. "It's the same bed and to be in that neighborhood was pretty special."

Then came the most personal moment of the weekend for Ovechkin. He and his parents brought the Cup to the grave of his brother, Sergey. (His brother, Mikhail, is in the United States).

Ovechkin was 10 years old when Sergey died at age 24 from a blood clot following a car accident. Sergey's memory remains with Ovechkin and inspires him.

"It's hard," Ovechkin said. "It was a tough moment, it was a tough moment for my parents, but it is what it is. You can't take time back. You can't change time, so we just move forward. But I think it was very important for me personally because he's the guy who, he's my brother obviously. You can't change it, but he motivated me to play hard and I gave what I can on the ice."

Following his chaotic pop-in at Red Square, Ovechkin closed out his time with the Cup with a private dinner with family and friends at the restaurant Modus Friends. The gathering was also a celebration of the one-year anniversary of Ovechkin's wedding with wife Nastya, who is pregnant with their first child (they were initially married in a small private ceremony in 2016).

The Cup leaves Moscow at 9 a.m. Monday for the Czech Republic, where Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny will have it in his hometown of Hodonin on Tuesday and forward Jakub Vrana will spend the day with it in Prague on Wednesday.

Ovechkin had the Cup for two days, but in a way that wasn't enough time; he wasn't able to bring the Cup to his grandmother, who was at his country home, about an hour from downtown Moscow.

Maybe that will serve as motivation for him to win it again. Even if he doesn't, he'll carry with him a weekend of lifetime memories.

"I tried to do all I can to share with the people and share with my family," Ovechkin said. "Obviously, today was my day I spent with the Cup. I didn't share with no one. I just shared with me, with my closest friends and with family."

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