-- Never one to ever shy away from the spotlight, Alex Ovechkin
drove into it Wednesday afternoon in midtown Manhattan.
The Washington Capitals' superstar hopped on a Zamboni custom-designed to promote the new video game, NHL 2K10, for which Ovechkin is the cover athlete, and drove the machine one block up Sixth Avenue to the NHL Store Powered by Reebok.
He was greeted by a flock of fans divided by a red carpet. Some of them wore Ovechkin jerseys or t-shirts and others stopped by because they were just curious about the hoopla. Ovechkin hopped off the Zamboni, gave a wave to the crowd and entered the store.
"It's nice when people want to see you," Ovechkin told NHL.com.
In town as part of the NHL Player Media Tour, Ovechkin was at the store to promote the video game and play the Wii version against a series of competitors, including Matt Pietrzak from New York City, who won the right to face Ovechkin by winning a tournament at the store last week.
Ovechkin also faced off against yours truly, but we'll get to that later.
"To have one of the great hockey players of all time come out to play your video game and play the fans it's just a special time and a special day," Chris Snyder, the Director of Marketing for 2K Sports, told NHL.com. "It's great for the fans, great for Ovie and it's also great for 2K Sports."
Ovechkin, smiling the entire way down Sixth Avenue while cruising the Zamboni, was thrilled to be the center of attention here amid a large gathering of hockey fans from New York and beyond who came to see No. 8 in person.
He made a left turn from 46th Street onto Sixth Avenue and rolled down, passing the building that houses the NHL's New York offices and stopping in front of the store. Admittedly, though, the Zamboni didn't go fast enough for him.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," Ovechkin said. "It's something new for me and something new for the fans. Lots of guys don't know hockey, they just see me around on a Zamboni and the police stopping the cars. It was pretty cool."
"At 2K Sports we make some noise and there's only one NHL guy that can do it," Snyder said, "and that's Alexander Ovechkin."
The scene shifted inside the store where more fans and gamers had gathered. Ovechkin signed copies of the game, which was sold for the first time here, and also phoned a select number of fans who pre-ordered the game.
He then made his way over to the Wii console that was situated directly below the roughly 30-foot high poster of his likeness to start his gaming experience against Matt.
Using the Los Angeles Kings
, the New York City kid beat Ovechkin, 2-0. Ovechkin, of course, was using the Capitals, but it was his first time ever playing the game and he admitted that he made some rookie mistakes.
He couldn't correct them against this gamer from NHL.com.
A year ago I used the Detroit Red Wings
to go head-to-head against Columbus captain Rick Nash
in NHL 2K9 and couldn't even register a shot on goal in a 1-0 loss. I went back to the well this year and again used the defending Stanley Cup champs, this time the Pittsburgh Penguins
, and it worked for me against Ovechkin and his Caps.
We played two 20-minute periods and although some folks here in the NHL offices would have probably preferred I take a dive, I stood tall and knocked off Ovechkin, 3-2, outshooting him 14-7 in the process. His eight penalties helped as I scored two power-play goals.
"Too many penalties," Ovechkin said, complaining a bit during our game about some of the calls.
Ironically, both of my power play goals were scored by fellow Russian superstar Evgeni Malkin
, considered to be one of Ovechkin's rivals in the League. Ovechkin, though, didn't care who scored against him, he was just disappointed that he was giving up goals.
"To have one of the great hockey players of all time come out to play your video game and play the fans it's just a special time and a special day. It's great for the fans, great for Ovie and it's also great for 2K Sports."
-- Chris Snyder, Director of Marketing for 2K Sports
The game, though, was fairly intense with a little trash talking going on back and forth.
got me on the board first with a goal off a juicy rebound in the high slot. He was all alone and I made sure to let Ovechkin know that his defenders were nowhere in sight. Ovechkin countered later in the first period with a goal by Brendan Morrison
, a new addition to the Capitals arsenal of offensive weapons.
Ovechkin celebrated as I gave him full marks for a pretty goal.
Malkin scored a power-play goal for me prior to the end of the first period, so I took a 2-1 cushion into the first intermission. At that point the promoters wanted me to hand off the controllers to another gamer and while I was ready to do so, Ovechkin demanded that we play another period.
He's the coverboy and the superstar, so they listened and we got to keep playing.
Now he might wish we never did.
Using Boyd Gordon
on an end-to-end rush, Ovechkin deked me out of my skates on a couple of occasions and scored a downright magnificent goal with 7:50 to play in the period to tie the game. Unnerved, I took advantage of a delayed tripping penalty and Malkin was able to pot the eventual game-winner with 4:25 to play.
"You saw my skills," Ovechkin added prior to agreeing to play me in a rematch when the Caps come to Manhattan in mid-November. "I played against you, but right now I think I can beat you, 100 percent."
Ovechkin's confidence stems from his third game of the day. He beat a writer from Deadspin, 4-1, but due to a snafu he was forced to use the Penguins instead of his Capitals. He wasn't thrilled about it, but admitted he was happy to take the victory.
"They're the Stanley Cup champs," Ovechkin said. "They have to win."
Ovechkin's 1-2 record in the game bearing his likeness couldn't spoil his afternoon in the spotlight. The only problem, he said, was that he didn't get to shake the hand of everybody that came out, but the experience is one he'll never forget.
"It's another good day to be Alex Ovechkin
," No. 8 said.
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com