Ovechkin on a Segway
"Hey Segway guy," the Park Police officer was shouting at Alex Ovechkin. "You can't ride in there."
Ovechkin, wearing his red Caps jersey and yes, riding a Segway, scooted out of the tourist-dotted maze that encircles the National Christmas tree, smiling his gap-toothed smile.
"I'm sorry officer, he got away from me," apologized Mary Ann Melville, a tour guide from Capital Segway.
The officer gave a stern lecture, something about where and where not to ride your Segway, and about how his sergeant was getting irritated. Ovechkin scooted about in circles and waited for the speech to end.
"All right, see you!" he finally said to the officer, and sped off.
And that's pretty much how the afternoon went. Briefly, the back story: Mike Green had recently complained to a team employee of boredom. She suggested he take a tour of D.C. He said his legs were tired. He had passed great numbers of Segway tours on his way to the Verizon Center, so they decided Segways would be the way to go. Matt Bradley was recruited. It became something of a media event. And Alex Ovechin and Nicklas Backstrom ended up on board.
Which is how I came to be chasing after four bright-red-sweater-clad professional hockey players pushing their 12.5-mph Segways to the limits as they raced down the straightaway on the north side of the White House, in front of confused tourists and Park Police and a few surprised Caps fans who scrambled for their cameras. Hockey players, it turns out, aren't the sort to play it safe on their sidewalk transportation devices, as was immediately evident when Bradley boarded his ride in the shop and attempted to execute a backward spin. He nearly fell off. Then he challenged Green to try the same move.
"So the best way if it starts spinning is just to jump off?" Green asked the employees.
I should say that Segways are very peaceable creatures, and within two minutes you can figure out how to glide, and if you're just an average sort of person you likely won't, for example, nearly crash while offroading your Segway up a hill and through a gulley by the Washington Monument.
"Sorry," Ovechkin said after that incident, when instructed to stay on the pavement henceforth. "I don't want to be a rat, but it's Greenie's fault."
The four players were trailed by a contingent of perhaps a half-dozen media members, but the Caps were always ahead of the pack; "I'm sure we'll slow down as soon as we have our first wipeout," Bradley said. They went down 14th Street, over Pennsylvania Avenue, around the tourists, past the souvenir vendors, with a brief stop by the anti-nuclear protester in front of the White House, who gave her spiel to Ovechkin.
"I'm from Russia," he said. "So, well, have fun."
"No, you have fun," she said, adding something about saving humanity.
"I don't have any money," he said.
"She said 'humanity,' " Green said.
"What does it mean," Ovechkin said.
Ovechkin was easily the loudest Segway rider. He rode the thing backward until it started making grinding noises; "when it makes that noise it's telling you it's not happy," one of the guides told him. He loudly shouted out "anybody wanna ride with us????" to a crowd waiting at a bus stop. He said "Whooooo hooooo" and variations thereof maybe 50 or 60 times. He rocked back and forth incessantly when we stopped to regroup. He yelped "Let's Go Caps" at random businessmen. He attempted to ride without the use of his hands, wrapping his legs around the steering column.
"He's reckless, look at him," Green said. "I think he's gotten in about three accidents so far."
"He loves to be like that," Backstrom said. " He drives fast. He does everything fast. He skates fast, too."
"I'm crazy," Ovechkin said. "I'm sick."
I asked why he was riding a Segway around D.C.
"Have fun," he said. "Why do I have to stay home? No. It's good. Watch beautiful city, watch girls...."
"Have you seen any girls?" Backstrom asked.
"No," Ovechkin replied. "Girls, where are you? I can't find you."
Soon after, the no-hands experimentation commenced. Bradley whizzed by and nearly crashed in the grass.
"I tried to skid," he explained. "Didn't work though."
It was, I think it's safe to say, not exactly your typical Capital Segway tour.
"They might be a little reckless, I would say," said Karen Novack, one of our guides. "I was given the assignment to make sure to keep them safe for the next game. I think they've knocked a couple years off my life."
[Video coming tomorrow, with any luck.]
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