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Ovechkin Signs Childrens' Wrists

So the Caps held an outdoor practice today. We were asked not to specify the location, and instead to say the practice was held at an outdoor rink in the Chevy Chase area. While my media cohorts seem likely to disobey that request, the utter bizarreness of it will lead me to honor it. Secrecy, you'll note, is big in the Chevy Chase area. I interviewed some teenage girls after the practice, girls who had hugged Alex Ovechkin and excitedly told me about it, and then decided I could only use their first names, and then decided I couldn't use their names at all. Seriously, only in Washington. Next time Valerie Plame wants to keep her identity a secret, she should confide in teenage girls in the Chevy Chase area.

So anyhow, the Caps held an outdoor practice today at a rink in the Chevy Chase area, a rink that featured a golf course fairly nearby, many floppy-haired spectators wearing Bullis and Landon garb and a post-practice buffet spread that included cut fruit, mini roast beef sandwiches and delicate desserts.

(Video to come in an hour or two.)

I asked Alex Ovechkin whether he was faster indoors or out. "I'm fast everywhere," he said.

Later, a few of us asked Alex about the upcoming Shades Night. If you haven't been following, some Caps fans are planning to wear shades Friday night to mock Martin Brodeur, Brodeur being the mirror-obsessed goaltender who was unhappy with Ovie's mirrored shield, which reminds me of that little girl in those HDTV ads, the girl who's always saying "It's the Mirrors!" to that elephant, which is all a little bit disturbing. I always feel like a horror movie is about to break out during those ads. Anyhow, OnFrozenBlog has a fine summary of the whole shades situation, and if you go to Friday's game you should clearly bring sunglasses. Point being, a few of us asked Alex about the upcoming Shades Night, and he didn't seem worried about Marty.

Ovie seems to make people a bit excited. (Nick Wass - AP)

"He have to see my puck," Ovie said, "not my eyes."

Anyhow, then Ovie and Semin set in on the fresh fruit, standing over the platter and shoveling cantaloupe and pineapple and berries into their mouths. Ovie was wearing a tight-fitting green jacket and a dark t-shirt with a drawing of a football helmet that said "Romantics."

"I'm a romantic guy," he said when I asked about the t-shirt, as Semin cackled. I'm telling you, that guy understands more than he lets on.

Then they went outside, and suddenly it was, I don't know, 1999 and Nick and A.J. were deciding to wade into a mosh pit of 4,000 pre-pubescent girls while wearing little stickers that said "please touch me." I mean, this was insane. A mob of children screaming and clutching Ovie, holding out items for autographs, items like their dress shoes and their wrists, yelling things like "Can I have your jacket?" and "Can I have your shoe?" and "You're the best, Ovechkin!" and "You're a beast, Ovechkin!" and "You're my favorite player in the whole entire world!" and "Do a dance, do a dance!" and "I saw you in Sports Illustrated!" and "I love you Ovechkin!"

"I love you too," Alex said.

He was laughing as the mob raged on. He ripped off his red winter hat and tossed it into the crowd. He signed the dress shoes and the wrists. He talked to all the little kids who persisted in calling him by his last name.

"Why are you calling him Ovechkin instead of Alex?" I asked the Little League mob.

"Because he's a beast," someone shouted, as if that answered that.

"I don't care," Ovie said.

Eventually, the caution tape exploded under the pressure of squirming Little Leaguers. Ovie said goodbye to the crowd, but then they pressed closer and he kept signing more sticks and pucks and ripped up pieces of paper and posing for more pictures. He escaped behind an equipment truck and walked toward the gates, but there were more crowds, and so there were more pictures and more shoe signings. This happened again at the gates, where the teenagers requested hugs, which he provided. This happened again outside the gates in the parking lot, where he posed for one photo with about 10 people. By the time he finally escaped, he must have signed at least one autograph for every resident of the Chevy Chase area.

"When we were in Canada at the beginning of the season, I thought we were traveling with Bruce Springsteen," GM George McPhee said. "He's a rock star. It's unbelievable. Wherever he goes now. It's really something."

In fairness to the rest of the Caps, they also were mobbed, and they also were asked for their clothing, with Olie Kolzig a particular attraction, but it wasn't quite the same.

"Mr. Clark, what do you think about Alex Ovechkin's jacket?" 13-year-old Johnny Cobb asked Chris Clark.

"Which one?" Clark replied.

"The green one," Johnny said.

"Oh, the ugly one?" Clark said.

"Yeah. Matt Pettinger said it should be thrown in the trash," Johnny said.

And like I said, at the end, I talked to this mob of young people who wanted to be in the paper, until some of them started to realize that they really didn't want to be in the paper, and then they retracted everything, so suffice it to say that they like Ovechkin and they like autographs. Finally I found a Little Leaguer who was willing to go on the record, 11-year-old George Fleming, the lucky youngster who wound up with Ovie's red winter hat.

"I thought this was like a once-in-a-lifetime chance to actually see him up close and talk to him," George said. "And just me, of all the people that were here, got [the hat]. That's a big thing."

I agree. It was a big thing.

By Dan Steinberg  |  December 20, 2006; 3:03 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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