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Long-term CCM relationship paying dividends for Ovi

by Corey Masisak
WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin is the signature hockey player for CCM skates, but his relationship with the brand goes back much further than his time as one of the company's spokesmen.
For as long as Ovechkin has loved hockey, he's been fitted in CCM skates. Well, maybe fitted hasn't always been the right word.
"I remember my first pair of skates -- CCM 652," Ovechkin said. "My brother bought them for me. It was a long time ago. I was … I can't remember (how old). We don't have a lot of choices over in Russia. He just bought them for me. They were not my size. They were too big, so we put some paper in the toe."
Ovechkin grew up in an athletic family. His mom was an Olympian in basketball; his father a professional soccer player. It was his older brother, Sergei, who turned him on to hockey.
Eventually Ovechkin grew into that first pair of skates, but Sergei died in a car accident when Alex was 10 years old. Alex's love for hockey survived that tragedy, and by the age of 16 he was competing against grown men in Russia and dominating players his own age on the international stage.
Along the way to becoming an NHL superstar, Ovechkin not only has graduated to customized CCM skates, but he has his own line now for aspiring young superstars to wear.
"Well, first of all I have a contract, but secondly it doesn't matter if I have a contract or not -- I just feel comfortable in them," Ovechkin said. "Always have."

Ovechkin is all grown up now, and has become the most exciting player in the sport. Three times the NHL Players' Association has recognized him as the League's best player and twice he's earned the Hart Trophy in voting by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Each time he scores a goal Ovechkin kisses his glove and points upward as a tribute to Sergei. He's gone from a kid with skates too big to one of the premier skaters in the League.

"Powerful -- he's got a lot of power in those legs," said teammate Jason Chimera, one of the fastest players in the League. "He can get going pretty quick because he's got so much power. He's one of those guys who in the preseason testing always tests great because of the power in his legs."

There are two distinct characteristics that help make Ovechkin stand out on the ice (aside from his transcendent ability) -- the tinted visor attached to his helmet and the yellow laces on his skates.

"Well, first of all I have a contract, but secondly it doesn't matter if I have a contract or not -- I just feel comfortable in them. Always have." -- Alex Ovechkin

He is part of a new generation of European players who still wear yellow laces like great players such as Jaromir Jagr, Pavel Bure and Petr Nedved did before them.
"I think I've had them probably seven years, eight years," Ovechkin said of the laces.
Players like Jagr and Bure wore wax laces and yellow was the only color option. Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and many other Europeans don't wear wax laces, though, and many colors are available. Yet, they continue to lace up their skates with yellow ones as a tribute to players gone by.
"I've seen a lot of little kids wearing the yellow laces and I'm sure it is because of Ovi," Chimera said. "Whoever is making those yellow laces is probably pretty thankful he is wearing them."
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