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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."

By Dan Steinberg  |  April 14, 2010; 3:50 PM ET
Categories:  Caps , Media  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Mike Knuble on being like cattle
Next: Ovechkin shows off the Black Series

Comments

I like to think of him more as a tank, who is also elusively cat-like. A Cat-Tank. That's the best kind of tank.

Posted by: ThisGuy | April 14, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Has McKenna checked the attendance figures at the Verizon center the past 3 years? Maybe he should look into it.

Posted by: Moose33 | April 14, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

had to bring crosby into it too, didn't he...

Posted by: grizneta | April 14, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Bull in a china shop is the first thing that comes to my mind whenever I think of Ovi.

Posted by: ncromcr | April 14, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Nice insights into the burgeoning war of words, Steinz.

Thanks for the links to La Presse--it looks as though Plekanic is singing a new tune: http://www.cyberpresse.ca/sports/hockey/201004/14/01-4270434-plekanec-tourne-la-page-sur-sa-declaration.php

Thanks also for the link to Conor McKenna's piece lamenting the conditions he predicted for Ovie in early Feb 2008. I hope we have rocked the red sufficiently to disprove that, and that we will continue to do so--and even more so--in the future.

@Moose33, it looks as though McKenna drastically reduced his posts in 2009 (5) and this year (2) compared to 2007 (50) and 2008 (54), often writing in the few he did that he felt uninspired.

Steinz, here's hoping that you remain inspired! Keep up the great work.

Let's go Caps!

Posted by: aphid69 | April 14, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

"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."

Typical self-serving Canadian hockey purist quote. He can go F*** off.

Posted by: Longgoneposter | April 15, 2010 2:30 AM | Report abuse

Before you guys go off on McKenna, you should really digest the context. In this case, the reason Dan put that McKenna quote in was to show how far DC has come as a hockey town (mostly because of Ovie), not to show how stupid McKenna was. When he made the comment it was not outlandish based on prevoius Caps: teams, coaching, and especially ownership who didn't know how to crack the Redskin-centric market.

Posted by: squidly666 | April 15, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I understand why Dan put McKenna's quote in there, and yes, a few years ago, Verizon Centre was a ghost town.

However, it doesn't mean that McKenna's quote wasn't rooted in hockey snobbery that pervades up north which feels the game of hockey is theirs by birthright and no one can appreciate it as much as they can.

In otherwords, "Waaaaahhhhh!!!!!!111 Anaheim/Carolina/Tampa don't deserve the cup or a franchise! Contract the league move franchises back to Winnipeg/Quebec!!1111"

Posted by: Longgoneposter | April 15, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

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