A Montreal reporter's favorite Ovechkin story
François Gagnon is a longtime hockey writer from La Presse in Montreal, and a longtime admirer of Alex Ovechkin. (Yes, he's also the guy who wrote the Plekanec story this week.) He's already in D.C. to prepare for Thursday's opener, and I asked him to explain why folks in Montreal have been such ardent fans of Ovechkin. In response, he told a story.
"The best quote I ever had, the game here [three weeks after] he signed that huge contract, Montreal plays the Capitals," Gagnon began. "He had already two or three goals in the game. Francis Bouillon hit him in the second period. Broke his nose."
You probably remember this game, right? The hit is shown above. Ovechkin got stitches on his lip early in the game from another incident, then suffered that broken nose, and yet still managed four goals and an assist in a 5-4 overtime win.
"How can you say enough about him?" Bruce Boudreau asked after that game. "He's an amazing person."
After the broken nose, Gagnon said, Ovechkin briefly went to the dressing room. Not long after he returned, he left his place during a faceoff, went over to Bouillon, tapped him on the rear and said something into the defenseman's ear. So after the game, Gagnon found Bouillon riding the bike, and asked what Ovechkin had said.
"[Ovechkin] said, 'Hey kid, come again, I love it,' " Gagnon recalled today. "I was not able to skate after that, that's how good he is," Bouillon continued. "There's Ovechkin, and there's all the others."
(Here's a similar version of that quote, from Conor McKenna of Team 990:
"I thought I really hit him hard but when he got up, he came over to me smiling and asked me to do it again because he liked it. Instead of knocking him out of the game, I may have given him extra motivation."
McKenna, at the time, was a big fan of Ovechkin. Less so of D.C.
I think I can honestly say that he is the best player I have ever seen....Too bad he's going to waste away for the next 13 years in a half empty arena in front of fans who don't truly appreciate him. My apologies to all hockey heads in the Beltway area but this guy should be playing in Canada or at least in a strong market like Minnesota, Buffalo or New York.
Anyhow, back to Gagnon and his appreciation of Washington's star.
"For me, exactly what I think of Ovechkin is related to that quote," Gagnon told me. "He can do everything. He has a great shot. Maybe sometimes he shoots too much, but how do you as a coach try to [limit] him? I mean, he's a thoroughbred. You want him to do that. And I think that's what fans like.
"You know, you look at a guy like Alex Kovalev, who fans in Montreal love, because he's doing magic with his hands and everything. But he's not as a team player as Ovechkin is. Ovechkin makes things happen. Kovie is an artist; if it doesn't work, it doesn't work, but at least he did his thing. Where you have a sense with Ovechkin that he's not only good between the two blue lines, he wants things to happen around the net and he wants those goals. That's why I think he is so great, just like Crosby. They are such ferocious competitors, that you cannot dislike those players."
So why do Montreal hockey fans love Ovechkin?
"It's because of the total package," Gagnon said. "I mean, it's another mentality. I often refer to him as a train. He's like a train on the ice."
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