Commentary

Ovie speaks out on Crosby, Caps' Cup hopes and that $124M deal

Updated: February 7, 2008, 12:35 PM ET
By David Amber | Special to ESPN.com

The NHL's most explosive scorer has Capitals fans thinking playoff hockey.

In this week's Facing Off, Alexander Ovechkin tells us why The Great One's single-season record of 92 goals may be tough to break, how he compares to Sidney Crosby and what it's like to be the NHL's first $100 million man.

Question from David Amber: Coming to the United States from Russia as a teenager, what was the toughest adjustment you had to make?

Answer from Alexander Ovechkin: It is a different life here. The atmosphere is totally different. There was so much change, but I had to adjust as quickly as possible. Learning English was not too tough. I just listened as much as I could to the guys. I knew some words, so it was OK for me.

Q: Your dad was a professional soccer player in Russia. Your mom won two Olympic gold medals in basketball for the country. Who is the better athlete?

A: My mom is definitely the better athlete. My dad was injured and he stopped playing when he was young. My mom was one of the best in our country. Two gold medals is the [best] she could do. She was a guard, a great playmaker.

Q: I read that you describe her as the Michael Jordan of Russian basketball. Is that true?

A: Yeah, she was really good.

Q: So how did you end up playing hockey instead of the sports your parents played?

A: My brother took me to the Dynamo school, and right away, I just loved the sport. It wasn't something my parents pushed me into; I just wanted to play, so they let me. My dad would say, "It doesn't matter what you do, just make sure you do it well." So I always remember that.

Q: What does Alexander Ovechkin do in the offseason when he isn't thinking about hockey?

A: Just normal stuff. I go out. I go to the movies, go bowling, swimming, all those things.

[+] EnlargeAlex Ovechkin
Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty ImagesAlexander Ovechkin signed a 13-year, $124-million contract extension with the Capitals last month.

Q: But you go back to Russia, right?

A: Yeah.

Q: What's it like being an international hockey star in your home country?

A: People recognize me over there, but nobody bothers me. I go to places where I have a lot of friends and I know the owner and the people who work there, so it's not a hassle.

Q: In Washington, D.C., do people recognize you?

A: I don't go out much here. My parents are here with me, so I hang out with them. When I go to the movies, I show up at the last minute, so no one really sees me.

Q: What's the best city to play in?

A: I like Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa. The atmosphere is unbelievable. It is cool to be on the ice in those cities. You know the fans are really into the game.

Q: As a rookie, you had 425 shots on goal, the fourth-highest total ever. Do your teammates ever accuse you of being a puck hog?

A: [Laughs] No. Nobody ever tells me to give them a pass or anything. My job is to score goals, and if I don't shoot the puck, I can't score goals.

Q: This season, the team got off to such a bad start. What has been the difference with Bruce Boudreau as coach?

A: It's pretty simple. He changed our mentality and he changed our system and he just really made us believe we are great players and we can win. He helped us get our confidence back. He has done an unbelievable job. I hope he wins Coach of the Year.

Q: Your nose has been broken a few times, you're missing a front tooth. Are you really a tough guy that just happens to have some scoring touch?

A: That's hockey. You never know what's going to happen. It's a tough sport. No tooth, a broken nose, but I'm looking good [laughs].

Q: How does it feel to be the NHL's first $100 million man?

A: Very good [laughs].

Q: OK, that was a dumb question. But I read you didn't use an agent to get the deal done. What was it like negotiating against a billionaire businessman like Ted Leonsis?

A: We have a good relationship. We met about five times and we just reached a deal. It wasn't too hard. If we had any trouble coming to an agreement, I had an agent I could bring in to get it done. The deal, because it is so long, is good for me. It's good for the team. I don't really think about the contract right now. I just think about my game and what I have to do better and that's it.

Q: Of all the goals you've scored in the NHL, which one is the most memorable to you?

A: Yeah, the first one. I scored against Columbus in my first game. I actually scored two in that game. But the first one I remember best. I keep that puck in my house in Russia.

[+] EnlargeOvechkin and Crosby
Jeff Vinnick/Getty ImagesAlexander Ovechkin, left, says he has no true 'rivarly' with Penguins star Sidney Crosby.

Q: At All-Star weekend, you tried some pretty difficult things during the breakaway challenge. Where did you come up with your tricks?

A: It was just improvisation. I wanted to try to doing something different. It's hard to come up with things to do, but it's good for fans to see what we can do with the puck, the stick, skates. Afterward, a lot of people said they enjoyed it, so that's what counts.

Q: What's the biggest difference between you and Sidney Crosby as players?

A: I think we're really different players. He's a playmaker. I'm a shooter. He's a great player. I like watching him play.

Q: What kind of rivalry is there between you and Sid?

A: We don't have a rivalry; we respect one another. But because he's Canadian and I'm Russian, we will get to play against each other at the Olympics and things like that, so maybe a bigger rivalry will grow.

Q: Who is the best player in the league right now?

A: There are so many good players, that's hard to say. [Pause] I think maybe the best player is Roberto Luongo. He is really tough to beat.

Q: Really? Luongo? What about you?

A: I'm a good player, too [laughs].

Q:The single-season NHL record is 92 goals. Is 93 possible?

A: It's hard because times have changed. The goalies have changed, and if you see how goalies played in the 1970s and 1980s, it was pretty funny actually [laughs].

Q: How many goals would you have scored playing in those eras?

A: I don't know. It's hard to know what I would have been like. That's a tough question.

Q: Who is the team to beat this season in the NHL?

A: Detroit. They have so many good players. They have tons of experience. Their forwards are fast. Their defense is solid. They are good top to bottom.

Q: Knowing you're staying in Washington for the long haul, it makes a lot of Caps fans feel confident that one day the team will win the Stanley Cup. Realistically, how long will that take?

A: As soon as possible. You never know. Look at the New York Giants winning the Super Bowl. No one thought that was going to happen. So you can't just have a plan, you have to play out the season. That game was pretty cool. We watched the game together as a team. About half the guys were cheering for New England and the other half were cheering for New York. I was cheering for the Giants because no one believed in them. Maybe that will be like us, where we can surprise everyone with a championship.

ESPN reporter David Amber is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.