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Summer with Stanley

Ovechkin shares Stanley Cup with thousands in Moscow

Capitals captain takes photos with fans, has quiet moment with father, trophy

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

MOSCOW -- The biggest issue for Alex Ovechkin during the first of his two days with the Stanley Cup in Moscow was time.

The Washington Capitals captain wanted to give as many people in his hometown as possible the opportunity to see the Cup on Saturday. But even with the help of a police escort to navigate Moscow's notorious traffic, he felt like he was racing against the clock.

 

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"You have so much that's going on in your mind, but as soon as you get it, you see the schedule," Ovechkin said. "You thought you were going to have 24 hours, right? But you basically have like 12 hours. So in 12 hours you have to do the maximum what you can."

Here's a rundown of how Ovechkin did it:

 

Hilton, 12 p.m. Moscow time

Ovechkin boards a van with a small entourage of close friends, Capitals staff and media to head to the FIFA World Cup Fan Fest, near Moscow State University. Russia faces Croatia in a quarterfinal in Sochi at 9 p.m. local time Saturday and Ovechkin will help rev up the crowd of thousands at the Fan Fest by giving them an up-close look at the Stanley Cup.

The Cup, which arrived at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport at 11 a.m., will meet the group there.  

"Everybody excited?" Ovechkin asks as the van pulls away. "Yaaaaaay!"

The Cup gets a police escort from the airport to make sure it gets there quickly, but Ovechkin's van, which arrives at 12:30 p.m., beats it to the university entrance by about 45 minutes.

Anxious for the Cup to arrive, Ovechkin fidgets in his seat. The 32-year-old gets out of the van and paces a bit before the blue Ford van with the Cup and Hockey Hall of Fame Cup keeper Mario Della-Sabia finally arrives. 

"It was busy coming down here because of the soccer," Della-Sabia said later. "Everything went very, very smoothly through customs and we're here now."
Della-Sabia takes the crate carrying the Cup out of the van and opens it. Ovechkin removes the Cup, hops into that van and leaves for the Fan Fest.

 

FIFA World Cup Fan Fest, Moscow State University, 1:15 p.m. 

While carrying the Cup into the Fan Fest, Ovechkin is enveloped by a horde of media and security trying to clear his path to a small stage. Ovechkin will stand there for about two-and-a-half hours posing for photos with fans who waited in line for longer than that for a chance to congratulate him and see the Cup.

Algiz Safaunov, a 29-year-old Moscow native, said those in line were told they shouldn't touch the Cup, but Ovechkin invites many of them to do so.

Safaunov said he has been a Capitals fan since 2005, when Ovechkin made his NHL debut with Washington. To see him finally win the Stanley Cup in his 13th season was exciting for many Russians. 

And they're thrilled he decided to bring the Cup to Moscow to celebrate with them.

"Of course, I'm excited," Safaunov said. "Every Russian fan was waiting for the 13 years. It's exciting."

Video: Alex Ovechkin at the World Cup Fan Fest

Winnipeg native Darren Hall has been in Russia for two weeks following the World Cup. The 26-year-old was in Kazan to see the quarterfinal between Belgium and Brazil on Friday and planned to take an overnight train to Moscow until he learned Ovechkin and the Cup were going to be at the Fan Fest.

To get to there earlier, Hall took a morning flight instead and waited in line for two hours to get his photo with Ovechkin.

"The line was really, really short and I got here really early, but people kept cramming up to the front of the line," Hall said. "I'm a big Ovechkin fan. I wanted to get my picture with him and the Cup. I think it's awesome."

By the time Ovechkin is done he will pose for more than 3,000 photos, shaking hands with many of the fans offering their thanks and congratulations. It rained for the last half hour, but the line didn't dissipate.

Unfortunately, hundreds will be turned away when Ovechkin's photo session ends at about 3:45 p.m. Before leaving, he brings the Cup to the Fan Fest's main stage and is interviewed by an emcee, who asks about winning the Cup and, of course, Ovechkin's thoughts on Russia's World Cup quarterfinal.

The intersection of the Stanley Cup and the World Cup made for a fun atmosphere, but Ovechkin said the soccer was secondary to him.  

"It's not about World Cup," he said. "I just wanted to bring the Cup to as much people as I can. … You can imagine every five seconds new people came, a family came and touched the Cup and took a picture. I know lots of people don't get [a photo], but there's only so much you can do with that."

 

Dynamo Moscow's Training Center, 4:30 p.m.

With the help of the police escort, Ovechkin's Cup caravan makes it to Dynamo's training center in the Moscow suburb of Novogorsk in about 30 minutes. Ovechkin grew up playing in the Dynamo program and wants to thank the coaches, staff and young players there by bringing the Cup to them.

But before walking out to an outdoor reception, Ovechkin spends a personal moment with his family. Unlike Ovechkin's mother, Tatyana, his father did not travel to North America to follow the Capitals during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

So this will be Mikhail's first opportunity to see and hold the Cup.

Father and son lift the Cup over their heads together. Mikhail then lowers it and gives it a kiss.

"I can't even put it into words," Mikhail said through a translator. "Thirteen years we were working toward that goal, and finally to win the Stanley Cup, it's a huge happiness. Huge happiness."

Video: Ovechkin and his father lift Stanley Cup together

Giving his father this experience might have been the moment of the day for Ovechkin.

"It was something he was dreaming about," Ovechkin said. "That's why he gave so much help, so much of his time to me, and it's all about that."

Ovechkin addresses the young Dynamo players and tells them to follow their dreams, like he did when he came here at 16.

"Follow your dream, and it doesn't matter who you're going to be in the future," "Ovechkin said he told them. "Follow it. It doesn't matter if you want to be a hockey player or you're going to play in the NHL or KHL."

After posing for more pictures with the players and their families, Ovechkin answers questions from the Russian media. He then returns to the Dynamo locker room where he once dressed for practices and puts on some skates.

He steps onto the practice rink and skates a lap with the Cup held over his head. Then he'll pose for some pictures on the ice, including one holding up the Cup with Mikhail. 

Then it's off to the coach's locker room to fulfill a promise he made last summer to Vladimir Vorobiev, his former Dynamo teammate and now Dynamo's coach.

"We were sitting in the coach's office and I was like, 'If I'm going to win it, I'm going to bring the Cup to this locker room and we're going to have some beers,' " Ovechkin said. "It was a pretty cool moment."

Vorobiev, who played 33 NHL games with the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers from 1996-99, appreciated his former teammate keeping his promise and fulfilling his dream of winning the Cup.

"I'm very happy he takes the Stanley Cup because for a hockey player, he's where he wants to be," Vorobiev said. "It was a long way until the Stanley Cup. … I'm very happy for Alex."

 

Karaoke Royal Arbat, 12 a.m.

Ovechkin's private party got off to a disappointing start with Russia losing its World Cup quarterfinal to Croatia on penalty kicks following a 2-2 draw in extra time. Fortunately, Ovechkin has the perfect antidote for the mood -- the Stanley Cup. 

Ovechkin carries the Cup on stage and tells the gathering of friends and family that they can use it to collect their tears. Following his speech, a video showing highlights of his and the Capitals season plays on the large video screen behind the stage and on smaller screens throughout the room.

Among those attending are former Capitals forward Sergei Fedorov, a three-time Cup winner with the Detroit Red Wings, Russian basketball star Vitaly Fridzon and Russian rapper Timati. Also there are Ovechkin's Washington teammates Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov. 

Kuznetsov will have his day with the Cup in his hometown of Chelyabinsk on Aug. 15 and Orlov will be the first player to bring the Cup to his native Novokuznetsk on Aug. 17. But they flew to Moscow to have some fun with Ovechkin.

The three Capitals stand side-by-side at the front of the stage watching memorable moments from their Cup run. Ovechkin's pregnant wife Nastya, Orlov's wife Varvara, and Kuznetsov's wife Anastasia eventually join them to watch the happy ending.

Ovechkin's eyes well up with tears while he relives the Capitals' 4-3 Cup-clinching win against the Vegas Golden Knights on June 7. He will dance and sing the rest of the night away here but has another busy but less public day with the Cup ahead on Sunday.

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