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Ovechkin's parents want to thank you

The Ovechkin family in 2005. (By Tracy A. Woodward - TWP)

"I want to make a comment," Alex Ovechkin's father, Mikhail, said more than an hour into our interview last week. "Will it appear in the newspaper or not?"

It was a balmy evening on a patio in Ballston, and I had been peppering Mikhail and his wife with questions about their son: his youth career, his on-ice achievements and his occasional controversies. Things were wrapping up, and I was getting ready to tell them about my love for Dostoevsky, when Mikhail said he had something to say. I asked him whether he wanted this to be in the newspaper.

"Konechno," he said -- "of course" -- and I was so proud of myself for understanding his Russian that I sort of agreed. I was expecting some sort of manifesto about hockey and life, but instead, the father of D.C.'s best athlete turned gooier than cherry preserves.

"Tatiania and I are very happy that Alex was drafted by the Washington Capitals," Mikhail said, gesturing to his wife. "We're very happy with the organization and the ownership, and with where he is right now, and with where the organization is right now. We're very happy who he's surrounded by."

"I want to say I'm very grateful and satisfied, not just with how Alex is being treated, but with how the whole family is being treated," Tatiana chimed in, mentioning her older son Mikhail, who works for the Washington Mystics. "He's being well respected, and he works with passion, and Misha in return is very respectful to his peers and very appreciative of the opportunity that was given to him.

"We're also very grateful to George McPhee for his initial welcoming of Alex," Tatiana continued, "in which George brought him to his house, gave him a roof and food, provided accommodations, made Alex feel welcome.

"I don't know whether it's proper or not," she said, "but I would also like to thank Mr. Leonsis for caring, for being involved with our family affairs, for being willing to help if we have any questions or concerns. We trust these people. I would like to emphasize that many family questions we come upon, we run by Mr. Leonsis for his opinion, his input, his advice. For example, in consideration of purchasing a house, in relation to where to make certain investments, and just day-to-day questions, typically we present these to Mr. Leonsis seeking his opinion and his recommendations."

Ok, this might not be great journalism, but I had sort of given them my word. And Leonsis, in case there's any question, had reciprocated the love during an hour I recently spent in his office. It's just like Tolstoy wrote: happy sports franchises are all alike, but each unhappy sports franchise is unhappy in its own way.

"His mother, at every game, says hi, gives me a hug, comes in the box on occasion," Leonsis told me. "And the reason they like me is they know I have their son's best interests at heart. It's an authenticness. I do, I love the kid. He's a great kid, and I've watched him grow up. And the good news, there's a double bottom line to Alex Ovechkin, right? He's a brother from another planet, he's a once in a generation player, and he's like this really nice kid."

Ovechkin's parents live at his house for months at a time; his mom cooks him stuffed cabbage and meat dumplings and washes and presses his clothes, and his dad accompanies him to the sauna and is a regular at the practice rink. When we chatted, they had been thinking of going down to the reflecting pool to take a family portrait with the cherry blossoms. Out of curiosity, I asked Ovechkin why he asked his parents to stay with him.

"Why I have to live without them?" Ovechkin asked me. "If they come here to be with them, they have to stay in a hotel?"

You just don't think of many 24-year old multi-millionaire bachelors living for months at a time with their parents, I tried to say; that some people would rather be on their own.

"Maybe some people," Ovechkin said. "But not me."

"We also would like mention, and are thinking about the supporting staff," Tatiana said back on the patio, rattling off the doctors, and public relations staffers, and other behind-the-scenes folks.

Next it was Mikhail's turn again; he wanted to thank IMG for helping them with Alex's marketing efforts. Then Tatiana thought of someone else to thank.

"Now they're bringing me into the picture," our bashful interpreter, family adviser George Landa said, as she thanked him in Russian.

Alex's dad had thought of another one.

"We would also like for you to mention, we have a special group of fans that is constantly present during Alex's practices," he said, referring to the team's fan club. "They support him, and they have some sort of small trophy that they're giving to Alex at the beginning of the season for the prior season, for his performance. They are very loyal to him and are there during his morning skates."

That concluded his list. He sat back.

"I expect you to put everything in writing," he told me.

I pointed out that he had yet to thank The Washington Post.

"A very good paper!" he agreed. "Whenever there are pictures of Alex or an article, I cut them out and send them to Russia."

Well, here's another one.

By Dan Steinberg  |  April 12, 2010; 5:29 PM ET
Categories:  Caps , Media  
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It reads like an Oscar Acceptance Speech, but the Ovechkins seem like nice, grounded people.

Posted by: Joran | April 12, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Stein -
I'm normally a big fan, so I read this post twice to make sure I didn't misread it the first time. I didn't like it. I think if you were worried about journalistic integrity you could have written this strictly as a report...not as a tongue in cheek pseudo requirement pressed upon you in exchange for an interview. The relationship between the Ovechkins and all things Washington is a story in and of itself and their thanks to the organization, city, fans, etcetera is newsworthy. There really wasn't a need for the apparent embarrassment in publishing their thanks. Perhaps I'm reading too much into your post...but it came across as reluctant and somewhat disingenuous. Like I said, perhaps I'm reading too much into it. If so...delete my post and never think of it again. But if your intent was to somehow CYA from posting something that you felt journalistically irresponsible, you should reconsider both the manner in which you relayed the information as well as the overall newsworthiness of the information you received.

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | April 12, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Love it. I couldn't think of a better environment for a young super star to mature in than the one the Ovechkins and the Capitals have provided for Alex. I too am thankful the DC area has a super star athlete with a good head on his shoulders and a strong support system in his immediate family and the Caps family.

Posted by: MillBurray | April 12, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

I saw it as a reporter kindly putting something very sweet on his sports bog that probably wouldn't work in the context of a print feature story on Ovy and his family.

As Ted Leonsis would say, "Be happy. You know you can do it." :)

Posted by: blackjack65 | April 12, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

I love this piece. Thanks for doing it. The Ovechkin's seem like nice people, and I really appreciate that Alex makes his family an important part of his life.

I also don't ever get the feeling, from either Ted or Alex, that what they say in public to the media is "media speak" and not genuine. As a Caps fan, I've never been happier than when the Caps drafted Ovechkin and when Ted gave him a new deal that will hopefully cement Ovechkin as a guy who will join D. Green and others as somebody who spent their entire athletic career in Washington.

We're going to win a Stanley Cup with Ovechkin soon and I just can't wait until Ted works his ownership magic with the Wizards too.

Posted by: CJMARTIN04 | April 12, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

I love the Ovechkins more every day! Success couldn't have happened to a nicer guy than Ovi.

Posted by: capswench | April 12, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Right on blackjack. Guess I'm just having a bad day.

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | April 12, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Yeah Disgusted, I guess I can see why you'd get that impression, but that isn't what I was going for. I wanted to convey their sort of unusual insistence on showing (extensive) gratitude without just printing the speech on its own, which I think would have seen weird. So I tried to use their speech within the context of a more traditional bog entry. Or something. I don't know.

Anyhow, I don't think I compromised anything journalistically in the news story, but I did tell the father I would convey their thanks, so I feel like I've now done that, in some fashion.

Posted by: DanSteinberg1 | April 12, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

If Mr. Ovechkin cared about his son's fanbase he would ask his son to sign the young kids autographs at Ballston with a little more care like all of his teammates do.

Sure, you can go to one of his autograph shows and get a "clear" signature and pay $150 to sign a kids jersey.

I know, I know, he is a superstar. I told that to my daughter.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | April 12, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Steinberg, I hope you'll convey the fans' thanks back to Mrs. & Mr. Ovechkin. Their son has given Caps fans (and all of hockey) someone truly special. If anybody deserves thanks, it's those two people. They raised a fine son, surrounded him with good people, and helped him make smart choices. We Caps fans are the beneficiaries of all that work.

Posted by: Kdarienzo | April 13, 2010 12:46 AM | Report abuse

Steinberg, I hope you'll convey the fans' thanks back to Mrs. & Mr. Ovechkin. Their son has given Caps fans (and all of hockey) someone truly special. If anybody deserves thanks, it's those two people. They raised a fine son, surrounded him with good people, and helped him make smart choices. We Caps fans are the beneficiaries of all that work.

Posted by: Kdarienzo | April 13, 2010 12:47 AM | Report abuse

Apparently, I thought my comments were so valuable they needed 2 postings. Damn me, and my runaway ego!

Posted by: Kdarienzo | April 13, 2010 12:56 AM | Report abuse

SteinB - Like I told BlackJack - i was having a bad day. Thanks for the follow up, though. Upon a third read with a fresh mind and better attitude and blackjacks/Ted's mantra in mind I came away with a different impression.

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | April 13, 2010 6:47 AM | Report abuse

I agree with earlier posts. No need to feel embarrassed with this piece. This story really peels the paint off of how Leonsis runs this team and embodies everything Abe Pollin in how he treats his players and goes the extra mile for their well-being. The fact his parents are equally welcoming of DC speaks volumes of the state of the Caps.

Posted by: HogsHaven | April 13, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Down to earth folks, I love them!

Posted by: riceldi | April 13, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

This made me chuckle. You always get the sense from reading articles about this family that they are very close and refreshingly normal. I have to say that I have always wondered how Ovie "lady friends" when his parents live there. OK, maybe I have too much time on my hands these days with the slow economy... :)

Posted by: curlyqcapsfan | April 13, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Wow. The whole family/hockey scenerio described in this post would make an amazing sit-com premise. You have the star athlete angle, the Russian cultural differences jokes, the traditional parents, the chubby, wise-cracking coach...this stuff just writes itself. "Everybody Loves Ovie."

Posted by: TheLeaver | April 13, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I love it. The antagonist would definitely need to be a bitter, bald sportswriter from Chicago who is constantly trying to tear him down only to have Ovie respond "It is what it is." I say we get Ricky Gervais to play BB!

Posted by: jburksva | April 13, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Down to earth folks, I love them!

Posted by: riceldi | April 13, 2010 9:11 AM |

I remember the same stuff from Tiger Wood's parents. See, Ovi this season signed a new deal and is now managed by the same agency that Tiger is - IMG.

IMG is a marketing machine. Say the right things and the big endorsements will come your way.

Ovi has CCM and did have Hair Cuttery and a few other local deals. I think CCM is his only national deal. He has a long way to go for them to get him to Tiger Woods exposure (in a good way of course).

Posted by: dmacman88 | April 13, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Count me among those who've been disappointed by Ovi: he ignored everyone here in LA at the practice rink, even though there were only a dozen or so of us waiting by the bus. And on the second day he slipped out another door entirely. And crazy me: I still adore him.

Posted by: OvechkinFan92801 | April 14, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

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