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Guest Blogger: Things Ovechkin Hates

Zdravstvuyte. Actually, it's easier to say Privet!

This is the standard answer to the question: "So, how do you say hello in Russian?" Which, incidentally, is the third most common thing that Americans ask us Russians. (The first thing being: "Oh, do you know that guy named Boris?" And the second: "So, what's the good kind of vodka?") Anyway, now you know. Since Zdravstvuyte (which is the formal Russian greeting) is totally unpronounceable for Americans, just say, Privet (or "Hi!").

There it goes. Privet.

My name is Slava Malamud. My position is Foreign Correspondent in North America for Sport-Express, Russia's daily newspaper, the most widely read sports publication in the Motherland (yes, we do call it that). I have been working in this capacity for the past seven years. As far as I know, I am the only professional Russian sports writer based in the States and my responsibilities include covering all American sports all over the continent. However, for obvious reasons, a great part of my activity revolves around the NHL and the Washington Capitals.

Tarik and I have decided that in light of the sudden popularity of all things Russian among the Caps fans it would be good to have me occasionally contribute to this blog with stories on this very subject. These will include interview translations, some inside stuff from the lives of the Caps' Russian contingent, whatever Russian hockey-related topics that might come up and, of course, answering your questions.

For the first order of business, I would like to present excerpts from a recent interview that Alex Ovechkin has recently given me. The article is coming out in its entirety in the next edition of Sport-Express and might get translated very soon on one of the excellent Caps fans' blogs. But I have picked out some of the better quotes to spare you the Russian-specific stuff. Strangely enough, many of them involve one common theme, which, quite in the spirit of the holiday season, is hatred. Or at least dislike - for some aspects of life in DC, Russian tabloids and certain players of Penguins fame.

The interview, as is the common practice in Russia, is in the Q&A format.

"Nothing really bothers me," says Alexander in response to the question if there is something about life in America that he does not like. "What is there to be bothered about? I spend most of my time with the other Russian guys... Well, maybe the drivers. The way they drive here, you could write a book about it!"

Too slow?

"Oh yes! There are drivers here with the capital D! In Russia they would simply get shot. Let's say you are driving on an empty two-lane road. Any fool knows the left lane is the fast one! But here they don't get it at all. Two of them will get next to each other and just keep going like that: nobody in front of them and a traffic jam behind. Why, why would you drive slowly in the left lane? Who knows. They just do it."

And what are the things that you like the most about living here?

"I have never been lied to here. Take my relationship with the team, for example. Everything they promise me, they always do it. It never happens that they tell you something and then forget. I have never before seen such professional relationship anywhere."

Is there anything you miss the most?

"The pace of life in Moscow. When I come there, I don't even have the time to relax. I would get home at four in the morning, sleep for four hours and - back in the saddle again. Hanging out, partying... What do you expect? If a guy toils without rest for nine months, what should he do: come home and sit in front of the TV with a bottle of water and potato chips and watch the news?"

Is Backstrom your best friend on the team?

"No, my closest friend is Semin."

At first sight he doesn't seem like you at all.

"Only outsiders think that, those who don't know him well. Actually, it really is an open question which one of us is more "like me." Sema is a really fun guy to hang out with, he always gets into adventures... Once, in San Jose, we messed up a hotel room, had to pay a hundred dollars extra for it. There were bananas everywhere, we were throwing the peel at each other. Had a pillow fight, destroyed all the pillows. Poured Coca-Cola all over the floor. "

What is the question from the media that you are most tired of?

"It used to be "Compare yourself with Crosby." Now it's "Compare yourself with Malkin." Actually, I have to do two or three interviews every day and almost always they ask me the same things. I could even write all the standard questions on a piece of paper and just hand it out to the journalists."

Staying with the subject, could you talk about your relationship with Malkin? There are rumors of all but a war between you two.

"No, there is no war and everything that was between us is in the past. I just think that he was wrong in acting like he did. He said things that shouldn't have been said. I won't go into it in detail."

Do you mean your confrontation with his agent Ushakov? Malkin's words in the media that the fight indeed took place?

"Yes, I won't go further into it. He shouldn't have said it."

If you and Malkin ever got into a fight on the ice - who would win?

"Whoever landed the first punch. But fighting is not my calling. And really, I don't see any rivalry between myself and Malkin. Or between myself and Crosby. And now they are adding Semin to our threesome too. There is nothing of that sort: we just play, get our points, someone is in front, someone is second... Of course, a headline like "Ovechkin Versus Malkin" catches the eye, but I don't see any reason to pour gasoline onto the fire."

Of all the players you have met on the ice, which one is the most unpleasant?

"Probably (the ex-Penguin, now a Senator) Jarkko Ruutu. He is the dirtiest player and does everything in an underhanded way. Just a rat running around..."

I have heard the team's fighter Donald Brashear talking to you guys in Russian. Are you teaching him?

"He does it himself, with a translator in his cell phone. He is going to come to Moscow this summer, so he is getting ready. As a matter of fact, he mostly hangs out with us, the Russians."

There are four of you Russian guys - two youngsters and two old ones. How do you get along?

"We try to get (the old guys) into the active lifestyle. Viktor (Kozlov) is our designated "target." We always try to get at him. But sometimes Fedorov gets it from us too. Actually, they try to always agree with us and never argue."

Would you like to tell an Ovechkin New Year's story?

"You mean something funny? Well... So, we are arriving in Turin for the Olympics... No, let's not do this one. Actually, it's very hard to find something that is fit to print in a newspaper."

You lead an interesting life.

"In turth, what they write about me is much more interesting than how I live... They had written that in Beijing (at the Olympics) I got drunk and totally destroyed a hotel room... (And) the Russian press has made me into such a ladies' man... As soon as I arrive in Moscow, go to a party and sit down with somebody at the same table, they will immediately write about Ovechkin's new romance. So, I try not to go with anyone or only to go with (male) friends. So they will wind up thinking that I am... All right, that's enough about that."

Is this why you offended Miss Virginia after one of the home games, refusing to have a picture taken with her?

"Ah, it's nothing. I didn't even see her. I just heard someone saying something to me about a Miss Virginia, so I said that our girls are better and left."

PS: This interview was a part of Sport-Express' New Year edition, in which we traditionally pick the Russian Athlete of the Year. Basically, it's Russia's version of the SI Sportsman of the Year award.

At the time of writing I didn't know whether it was Ovechkin who won it (actually, I still don't - will find out when the paper comes out) or Andrei Arshavin, a footballer. You are probably wondering how it could happen that the best player in the world's best league who has helped Russia win the World Championships for the first time in 15 years (and at a sport which we are actually good at!) and was a finalist for SI's Sportsman of the Year even gets mentioned in the same sentence with a footballer. A footballer whose season consisted of brilliant play at the European Championships (up to the semifinals) and several months of pouting and waiting for a major foreign club to make a move for him, I might add. Well, what can I say, we are a football-sick nation (and I will not call it "soccer" for fear that the DC Russian diasporah will put a contract out on my head) even though most of the time we are quite bad at it.

But hey! Imagine, if you will, two headlines in the local press: "Caps Tear Through Playoffs, On Brink of Cup Finals" and "Redskins Player Chased Around His Castle, Severely Bitten By Own Bloodhounds." Which one gets the top billing? Right. Well, then, I guess the cultural divide is not as great as we thought, is it?

Please do have the happiest of New Years. (Which is something we, Russians, celebrate in lieu of Christmas, by the way.)

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  December 28, 2008; 11:53 AM ET
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Next: Sloan Reassigned; Stajan Out


Thanks for posting!

Posted by: mugod | December 28, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Outstanding! I love things like these. Keep them coming!

Posted by: Saballs | December 28, 2008 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Great piece - thanks so much for sharing. Please keep them coming!! :-)

Posted by: --Boo-- | December 28, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

And for goodness sakes, keep the slow traffic to the right.....;)

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | December 28, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I LOVED the comparison of coverage of the Redskins vs. the Capitals - what a great line! Please come back and visit often!

Posted by: DevilsCapsGal | December 28, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

wish it was the whole thing. when it comes out, you think you can put up the whole article?

Posted by: richmondphil | December 28, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Great stuff. I'm proud to be a Caps fan, with what OV said about "not being lied to"
Says much about our organization.
Thanks for the notes on your interview. Look forward to more in the future

Posted by: billd2 | December 28, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Looks like someone forgot his 'please' and 'thank you' ... ;-)

Posted by: --Boo-- | December 28, 2008 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Slava, should add pround to be American if OV says the best thing about living here is not being lied to.
Thank you again

Posted by: billd2 | December 28, 2008 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Great piece! Thanks for posting it. :-)

Posted by: irockthered | December 28, 2008 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Awesome :D

"In Russia they would simply get shot." lol I admit I pictured a huge cannon on top of my car for the same exact reason.

Posted by: mauree | December 28, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse


and welcome, Slava! I hope you stick around, there are many good hockey connoisseurs and lovers here. And I hope you'll post every once in a while some video of awesome action from the russian league, especially if it involves young prospect :D

Posted by: mauree | December 28, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse


He's Russian. they like to get straight to the point.

Posted by: richmondphil | December 28, 2008 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Great interview, and I look forward to future pieces.

Funny, I don't remember "zdravstvuyte" being so hard to pronounce from the 1 semester of Russian I took back in college.

Posted by: theGelf | December 28, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Great stuff. Don't underestimate the interst in "Russian-specific" stuff though. Folks are interested in that too. The possibility of such a cultural exchange is what makes hockey different from most other sports and also what makes AO a potentially transcendant figure. Thanks for the good work.

Posted by: puff1 | December 28, 2008 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Hurray! I think this is a most excellent idea Tarik and Slava! Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: mlozzi | December 28, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Spaseeba Slava....Great post!

Posted by: ralCapsFan | December 28, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

классная статья, Слава! Нам так повезло с русскими в вашингтоне - не только хоккейисти, и вы тоже!

кстате, так интересно что русские свободно критикуют других игроков в прессе.

Posted by: katzistan | December 28, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Neat-o! thanks!

Posted by: sargeantmofo | December 28, 2008 12:47 PM | Report abuse


dude at least put the translation here

Posted by: mauree | December 28, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

LOL! :-P So tell me, when you were a kid, did you ever get reprimanded for not playing well with others or running with scissors or anything like that? ;-)

Posted by: --Boo-- | December 28, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

According to the Babel Fish translator:
"class article, glory! To us thus it transported with the Russians in Washington - not only to [khokkeyisti], and you also! to [kstate], so interestingly that Russians freely criticize other players in the press."

Posted by: --Boo-- | December 28, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

resourceful Boo, kinda makes sense...

I bet Слава means Slava :D

Posted by: mauree | December 28, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

That makes sense. I know the entire translation is not clear, but at least it is helpful! :-) I must say regarding the last sentence, I was thinking the same thing when I read the excerpts. Not that I mind, but it is an interesting observation.

Posted by: --Boo-- | December 28, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Fantastic article, Slava! Thanks for posting it.

Posted by: Atrox | December 28, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

kdwiedel (from previous thread), I'll try. It may take some time--I'm home with the folks for the holidays.

Welcome to the circus, Slava! I look forward to more. And as puff1 said, don't underestimate the interest in the more "Russian-centric" information. DC loves our Russians!

mauree, I'm with you and Ovechkin. My one pet peeve about DC traffic is those people who won't get over. Of course, Ovechkin has more money to pay for speeding tickets than I do.
Oh, and katzistan said, uhh, Great article, Slava! and then something about Russians in Washington (players and Slava too), then that last paragraph was about Russians freely criticizing other players in the press. (No, my Russian isn't that good, Babelfish helped)

Posted by: jmu_capsgirl | December 28, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Boo beat me to it! Guess I should learn to type (and translate) faster.

Posted by: jmu_capsgirl | December 28, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

@Boo, Mauree

Here is a better translation that makes better sense.

Slava Great Story! We are so lucky with all the Russians in Washington not only with players but you as well.

By the way, Very interesting that russian players freely critisize other players in the press.

Posted by: lightshow | December 28, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

yeah, but ruutu has always been known as a goon.

and i'm glad i don't live in northern virginia anymore...too much traffic.

Posted by: richmondphil | December 28, 2008 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: lightshow | December 28, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

yes, I agree one of the things that interests me about Hockey is learning about other places too. SO leave in some Russia stuff:) In fact, we are trying to go this summer! My one of my favorite clips last year was Backstrom teaching Swedish; maybe we can learn some Russian from the intermission clips!

Posted by: kmr2r | December 28, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm stuck in in East Point Georgia near the airport and need to find a nearby bar to watch the game. Buckhead etc is too far; I need something closer.

Any suggestions?

Posted by: ChrisAm | December 28, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse

"Please do have the happiest of New Years. (Which is something we, Russians, celebrate in lieu of Christmas, by the way.)"

Now we know why the traditional New Year's Day Game is at 7 pm this year...

Posted by: CapsNut | December 28, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Can you watch an Internet feed?

I assume you were kidding, but nonetheless (:-)), I assumed that the New Year's game was later because they did not want to compete with the Winter Classic again ... anyone have any other thoughts about that?

Posted by: --Boo-- | December 28, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

the miss virginia comment was hilarious.

Posted by: richmondphil | December 28, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse


Per transaction page Sloan was reassigned was it just a paper transaction?

Posted by: cocorules | December 28, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse


No unfortunately. Stuck with the inlaws who have no cable and dial-up.

Posted by: ChrisAm | December 28, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

@ ChrisAm

Try: Uptown Sports Bar & Grill

2787 Main St

Atlanta, GA 30344

(404) 761-7900‎

This is right across the street from a MARTA station.

I'd call first, just to make sure they have Center Ice. Good luck!

Posted by: TrappedinGA | December 28, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

"And what are the things that you like the most about living here?

"I have never been lied to here."

Never been lied to? The most corrupt city on the planet and you haven't been lied to?
That just means you're due!

Posted by: caphcky | December 28, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse


Sloan has been reassigned.

Posted by: el_bashir | December 28, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse

That was pretty good, thanks Tarik

Having the occasional contribution from "Mr. Sports-Express" can only add to the quality of this blog.

Slohkim Parom
(phoenetic is about as good as my Russian spelling gets)

Posted by: austinsteve | December 28, 2008 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Privet, Slava -- I think this is a great idea to blog with Tarik from time to time. I think all of us are interested in learning more about our Russian players. And Tarik, thanks for all of the updates - your peeps are grateful!

Posted by: plinkwired | December 28, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, was just thanking Slava for the article and saying we're lucky to have both him and the Russians in town. Then that I thought it was interesting that Russians don't feel any hesitation in criticizing other players in the press - I'm pretty sure it's clear to most North American players that that's sort of out of bounds. (I'm assuming that, just because it's so rare, we usually get all the banal stuff about the other team being great, hard workers, bla bla bla.)

Posted by: katzistan | December 28, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

I like the idea of a russian guest blog. However, beware when humanizing an idol, the trolls may come out of their caves hungry for food.

Posted by: opita | December 28, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse


действительно интересно!

Вы из Республики Казахстан?

Posted by: opita | December 28, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Alex, we have a name for those traffic jams caused by inconsiderate "left lane larrys". We call them "moron clusters". You will often see miles of empty road in front of and behind these clusters, and many cars densely packed behind a SUV or minivan.

Posted by: perspective6 | December 28, 2008 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Welcome to Washington!

I read SportExpress regularly to practice my Russina. It's more interesting than reading economics articles.

You teach English speakers to say zdrastviystia, by telling them to say "does your ass fits ya" really quickly. It works!

Posted by: malcomj | December 28, 2008 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Interesting interview, Slava. Also, your translations of player interviews (with Semin and Varlamov) that I've watched on the Caps site are right on. A lot better than Fedorov's :)

I live on a two way street that should really be a one way since 2 cars can't pass each other on it, so one always has to pull over near someone's driveway because otherwise there are cars parked on the sides. Well, there is one certain woman in a minivan that NEVER EVER pulls over. Always makes the other people pull over. Next time I see her I'm just gonna sit there and see what the idiot does.

Posted by: ranndino | December 28, 2008 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Where ever did you get the idea for this? It's never been done before.... wait... yes it has... on Off Wing, On Frozen Blog, and Puck Daddy.

At least you have the "only professional Russian sports writer based in the States" ... uh... wait.... isn't Dimitry Chesnokov a professional writer, I think he's Russian, too? Hey, he's not just based in the United States, but DC, too!

Posted by: no_private_info | December 29, 2008 6:40 AM | Report abuse

Thanks. Great idea and keep 'em coming. Your English is excellent by the way.


Posted by: BetterOffWithFederov | December 29, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Don't worry man. You're a sportswriter. Russians only put contracts on the heads of political journalists. You're safe--as long as you are unflinchingly positive.

Posted by: matthewdraper | December 29, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Great idea to put Slava's stuff on the blog. I speak Russian, so I read things of his on Sport Express sometimes, but it's good that it'll be available to the masses now. Thanks for all the great coverage, Tarik (and Slava)!

Posted by: BigRed8 | December 29, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I can't believe I missed this post before. What a great service for the hockey obsessed. I also speak a bit of Russian (poorly) after a few years of study, and lived in what was then Leningrad for half a year, (cold, so very, very cold...) so I love the "direct from the source" Russian materials.

Posted by: oldtimehockey | December 29, 2008 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Just fyi, the entire rest of the interview has now been translated at

Posted by: tuvanhillbilly | December 29, 2008 11:15 PM | Report abuse

The article was great. Ovie is very funny.

The question I'd like answered is, who's been working with him on his English?

Posted by: BeemanRS | December 30, 2008 3:22 AM | Report abuse

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