Ovie Makes a Splash
So about a half-dozen members of the Ottawa media were gathered around Olie Kolzig this morning when Ovechkin entered the dressing room. The media didn't move. Ovie poked his head over the crowd to stare at Kolzig, and then slid over to Donald Brashear's locker and started whispering in Brashear's ear. After a few moments of this, Ovie retreated and talked to Alexander Semin for a while, and then the two Russians returned to Brashear.
"Brash, let's go, right now," Ovie said.
"Brash, let's go, let's go," said Semin excitedly, proving that he actually can speak English when something important is going down.
So Brashear, the designated enforcer, followed the two fleet Russians he's sworn to protect, and the three of them rushed over to Caps PR guy Corey Masse--dressed, as always, in a suit--and they scooped up Masse and dragged him into the shower room and dumped him into the cold tub, as most of the other players, laughing, sprinted in to watch. A few minutes later, Masse emerged soaking wet, telling a cackling Ovechkin "it's not over, it's not over."
Apparently, the stunt was premeditated.
"I was told to bring an extra suit for him," media relations director Nate Ewell said. "I don't know what's funnier, him getting soaked or trying to fit into one of my suits."
I mention this because the Ottawa media folks were all talking about how carefree the Caps dressing room was. They had a long session this morning with former Senator Brian Pothier, in which they asked Pothier to describe his new team.
"Watch Ovechkin's play, that's our team--high-energy, fun, laughing constantly," Pothier said. "There's not the pressure, there's not the intense media, you don't get picked apart....I don't know if we're expected to do a whole lot, either. When you're expected to win the Stanley Cup every year, there's expectations, there's pressure. It's been different. It's been different."
After practice, the team had been listening to Bon Jovi and Alice Cooper and stuff like that--they listened to Bon Jovi before the win over Philly on Saturday night, and an equipment guy, not wanting to insult karma, figured Bon Jovi would be a proper choice this morning. Anyhow, about this time Ovie seized control of the stereo and put on a dance tune called "Zhizn Mya" ("My Life") by Sveta, which was painfully bad, to the point where bystanders were noticeably grimacing.
"Unbelievable song," Ovechkin said when I asked whether he liked it. "I can put another one....." and he ran to the iPod and chose some other Russian dance song by "Oskar." He wrote the name of the song in my notebook, but without having a Cyrillic keyboard I'm unable to reproduce it right now. I asked Kris Beech about the music; "awesome," he said. And shortly after Oskar came on, Mike Green emerged from the shower wearing a bright pink shirt with color-coordinated gray hipster cap and high-top hipster sneakers. "What is this?" he said of the music.
"Very retro, very European, very old-town Montreal," Jamie Heward said of Green's hair.
"I don't know, I just need a haircut," Green said.)
A few minutes later, a member of the Ottawa media later asked Caps Coach Glen Hanlon about the lighthearted attitude in the dressing room; "I don't want to say looseness....." the question began, and then Hanlon interrupted.
"I think you can say all of that," Hanlon said. "I think it's huge, and the players love it. I don't think anyone last year that was covering hockey could look at the Washington Capitals and say they underachieved, so why change the environment, you know? The guys succeeded and they excelled at it, and they enjoy it and the coaches like it. They're a good bunch of guys, we have good relationships with them and the coaches seem to have as much fun as the players do....
"We don't have many times where coaches really need to address much. Again, it's overused around here, but the players really do, they've taken charge of that room. We have zero behavioral issues. And the other thing, too, is Ovechkin--he's a horse. How many times have we ever had to say, 'Ok, Ovechkin didn't work.' Or, 'He's a bad person,' or something like that. He makes a mistake it's like 'Slap Shot'--you know, 'Sorry coach, won't do that again, sorry coach, no problem.' So it's easy. It's really enjoyable around here. So, enjoy it while it lasts, right? Chemistry is a fleeting thing."
(Go ahead, accuse me of being on the Caps payroll.)
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