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Semin: International Man of Mystery

Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon started a (really) minor controversy after this morning's pregame skate at Scotiabank Place when he said this about Alexander Semin:

"He has no trouble ordering a steak dinner in English, but when it comes to coaches and reporters he doesn't seem to know any English. He has a lot of fun over here, letting on that he can't speak. He doesn't want anyone to know that [he can]. He wants to be under the radar and go on about his business."

I couldn't tell whether Hanlon was joking, so I shut off my recorder and went into the dressing room.

I see Ovechkin and Semin chatting in Russian. I walk over. They stop talking. Ovechkin offers a fist pound. Semin crosses his arms.

Here's how the conversation went:

Me: Alexander, can you really speak English?

Semin: [He says nothing, just looks at me.]

Me: Coach says you know English, you just don't want to talk to reporters.

Semin: [Again, he says nothing. But now he's smiling].

Me: Hey Alex, does your boy speak English or not? Coach says he does.

[Now both of them are cracking up.]

Ovechkin: "His English is not bad. Last night I ask him order some food in the restaurant. He said, 'No, I don't want to do it.' I told him he have to. He tried, but he needed some help."

[Now they are talking in Russian again and laughing even harder than before].

Me: So which is it? Does he? Or Doesn't he?

Ovechkin: "He says his Engish is getting better."

Semin: [He still says nothing. But he's also still smiling).

So, basically, I learned nothing. Semin never spoke a word in English. This story is going to need more reporting. But don't worry, your dedicated beat writer will get to the bottom of this.

I think he knows way more English than lets on, but he's just not sure of himself yet.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  January 30, 2007; 1:11 PM ET
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