SPRINGFIELD, Va. — Even though Alex Ovechkin doesn’t want to talk about the upcoming season just yet, he got a chance Thursday to survey evidence of his 12 seasons with the Washington Capitals.
Another pair of NHL-sized rinks is set to go up in the suburbs next year, a testament to the so-called Ovechkin effect on the growth of hockey in the area.
“I don’t think it’s an ‘Ovechkin effect,”’ Ovechkin said. “But it is nice to be part of it. It’s nice to be involved. And it’s nice to see how fast it grows. It’s just an unbelievable feeling when you see the place gets crazy. It’s amazing.”
Ovechkin talked in front of a construction site for The St. James, a planned sports complex that will focus on hockey and other athletic opportunities for children. Hockey has taken hold significantly in the D.C. area since Ovechkin arrived as a precocious teenager in 2005 who barely spoke English.
“It was very interesting for me when I just came here from Russia to find a new world, a new place,” Ovechkin said. “It was kind of hard decision for me and my family to come to D.C. because I was 19 years old. It was a different world for me. Different culture, different people, different atmosphere. But as soon as I get in here I start to feel like everybody love me, everybody can’t wait to see me on the ice.”
The Capitals have yet to make it past the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs during Ovechkin’s tenure, but that love affair hasn’t wavered. The popularity of the sport continues to rise locally even as Washington enters an uncertain period of Ovechkin’s career.
Ovechkin turns 32 on Sept. 17 and has four years left on his 13-year contract. With training camp starting next week, there aren’t many chances left at that elusive Cup.
These days Ovechkin talks about the past as much as he does the future.
“As soon as I step on the ice, I always knew we we’re going to have a good team, we’re going to have a great organization and the fans are going to come and we’re going to have a hockey town,” Ovechkin said. “It was a huge honour for me to be a part of it and you can see where the organization’s grown up. I hope this building is gonna be growing up the same like when I came here. It’s going to be famous and it’s going to be huge.”