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Ovi takes GQ magazine inside his Russian childhood

by Dan Rosen
Eloquently described by writer Michael Idov as someone who looks "more like Jaws, the henchman from the Bond films, with a touch of Jaws the shark," Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is featured in this month's issue of GQ Magazine. He's labeled as "the best hockey player in the world," but also one of the most unpredictable.

"Nobody doubts Ovechkin will be one of the sport's all-time greats, if not the greatest -- but that's only if he doesn't derail himself in the process," writes Idov in his story titled, 'Ovechkin With Love.'

Idov dives into Ovechkin's childhood, which was buoyed and perhaps even salvaged by his athletic parents, Tatyana and Mikhail. It was controversial due to the changing of times in Russia after Alex was born in 1985.

"Soon after his birth, the family moved to the capital's outskirts, into the tenth and top floor of a homely brick building in a tough neighborhood," Idov writes. "Its public school, number 596, was famous for army-like discipline and a tyrannical principal, and not much else."

Ovechkin in GQ

Ovechkin in November's GQ (Click image to enlarge)

While sitting outside a Moscow café, Ovechkin told Idov, "I'm not a real central-Moscow kid. I'm not used to luxury stuff."

He isn't, Idov writes, because Ovechkin grew up amidst "a carnival of raw greed and criminality."

"You did what you had to do," Ovechkin told the writer.

Idov writes that Ovechkin was released into this world and "for a guy with not much in the way of academic achievement … career options were limited: Driver. Bodyguard. Hit man.

"Luckily there was hockey."

The sport paved Ovechkin's way, Idov writes.

"Hockey got him out of P.S. 956, where he made it through eight and a half grades -- before switching to Dynamo's sports school. The twice-daily training sessions -- morning and night -- left little time for anything else."

"You dive into sport with your head and arms and legs, and there's no time for anything else," Ovechkin told Idov. "There's no other career."

Ovechkin added that his friends were "getting high and getting dead." He said some are in prison now, but a lot of them are dead.

"Hockey was both a destiny and a salvation," Idov writes.

It obviously turned out well for him.

"You dive into sport with your head and arms and legs, and there's no time for anything else. There's no other career." -- Alex Ovechkin told GQ's Michael Idov

Ovechkin told Idov he used to idolize the Pittsburgh Penguins and star captain Mario Lemieux, collecting his hockey cards. Meanwhile, he was being scouted heavily by NHL teams and his future was looking up as long as he could stay on the straight and narrow.

He did, and now, as Idov writes, Ovechkin is being labeled as Russia's most eligible bachelor -- a single, 25-year-old multimillionaire who is "handsome in a brutal way."

"In Moscow, if you have money, you're king," Ovechkin told Idov. "If you don't -- sorry, man, get lost. I mean, it's like this everywhere. But in Moscow, it's much more hard-core."

Ovechkin gave Idov a look inside his private (but still very public) life in Moscow during the offseason, but he tells him that when he's in Washington during the hockey season, his life is tame.

"Moscow is a big city," Ovechkin told Idov. "It's all nerves -- something's always happening somewhere. D.C. is a quiet, calm, family town."

Ovechkin lives in Arlington, Va., and his parents never are far. Neither is his brother, Mikhail, who works for the WNBA's Washington Mystics.

But, as Ovechkin explained to Idov, the Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal are driving forces behind his career. He has neither and wants both.

"All the perks are his … but true glory is proving slippery," Idov writes. "No matter how materialistic this post-Soviet boy comes across, he has signed up for more than this. And so have the fans. Ovechkin's massive fame is still a kind of loan, and it matures soon. This year better be legendary. This year better boom."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


To read the full GQ article about Alex Ovechkin, click here.

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