Ovechkin begins Cup party in Moscow
Capitals captain huge hit at World Cup Fan Fest, Dynamo Hockey Schoolby Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer
MOSCOW -- When Alex Ovechkin was asked last month about what he planned to do with the Stanley Cup when he brings it to his native Moscow, the Washington Capitals captain lit up with excitement.
"I'm going to share it with all the people who I know, people who I don't know," he said. "But I'm just going to share my moment with them because lots of fans haven't seen it, never touched it."
Ovechkin has proven to be a man of his word.
He began his two days with the Cup in Russia's capital Saturday and has filled his schedule with opportunities for others to share in his celebration of the Capitals' first Stanley Cup championship since they entered the NHL in 1974.
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Ovechkin brought the Cup to the FIFA World Cup Fan Fest, near Moscow State University, where he stayed for almost three hours, with thousands of fans hoping to catch a glimpse of him with the Cup.
It's evident from the moment you arrive in Moscow that World Cup fever has taken over, from signs in the airport and throughout the city. Tourists who come to visit St. Basil's Cathedral and take photos of the Kremlin and Lenin's Mausoleum mix with those heading into Football Park, an interactive fan experience set up in the middle of Red Square.
Ovechkin and his wife, Nastya, along with Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin, Dallas Stars forward Alexander Radulov and Los Angeles Kings forward Ilya Kovalchuk, attended Russia's round-of-16 win against Spain on Sunday. Russia plays Croatia in the quarterfinals in Sochi, Russia on Saturday, and Ovechkin bringing the Cup to the Fan Fest clearly livened up the party atmosphere.
At the Fan Fest, Ovechkin signed autographs and took photos with fans who waited in a long line; one fan said he had been on line for two hours. Even though it began to rain, the line did not let up.
Video: Alex Ovechkin at the World Cup Fan Fest
He spoke to the Russian media briefly, then took the stage, Cup in hand, and addressed the crowd. He lifted the Cup over his head before leaving the stage.
Ovechkin then headed to Dynamo Moscow's Training Center and Hockey School in the Moscow suburb of Novogorsk to give the young players in the program and their families a chance to see the Cup. Ovechkin, 32, grew up playing for Dynamo before he was selected by the Capitals with the first pick in the 2004 NHL Draft and joined them to begin the 2005-06 NHL season.
When Ovechkin was 14, Igor Larionov, who won the Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 1997, 1998 and 2002, visited with Dynamo and spoke about his NHL experiences and winning the Cup. It was then that Ovechkin decided that was something he wanted to do if he got the opportunity.
"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," he 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."
He spoke last month about wanting his days with the Cup to be a big party.
"It's going to be something special," Ovechkin said. "It's going to be something I'm going to share with all the people, all my family and friends."
Ovechkin was scheduled to wrap Saturday at a private event at a karaoke club, where he was expected to watch Russia's game against Croatia. He'll spend most of his second day with the Cup on Sunday out of the spotlight with family and friends.
Ovechkin, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after leading the NHL with a Capitals-record 15 postseason goals, spoke in June about how grateful he was for his family's support throughout his career.
It took him 13 NHL seasons to win the Cup, and the joy he felt from finally achieving his goal was evident in how he celebrated, whether it was frolicking in fountains with teammates or dancing with the Cup at a private team party.
Video: Ovechkin and his father lift Stanley Cup together
Now he and his family in Moscow will have their own moments with the Cup.
"My grandma, she will touch it. She will kiss it," Ovechkin said. "It's something special. You never thought how cool it is. Of course you have dreams about it, but this is something unbelievable."