Alexander Ovechkin is 37 years old today. That's an impressive age, even by the standards of modern hockey. Many of his peers have already packed up their skates and put them in a far corner of the closet. And he's still on the ice, still enjoying the game, still dreaming. And that last one is probably the most important thing.
In the summer Ovechkin realized one of his dreams - to play for Dynamo Moscow soccer. His destiny is tightly connected with Dynamo Moscow - he started playing here, he played here ten years ago during the NHL lockout and he wants to return here to finish his career. On the soccer field, the great forward was like a happy child - the goal he scored against the Amkal blogger brought him pure joy.
And it's the same in hockey - for Ovechkin, as well as for others, it is, of course, hard work. It is a tremendous amount of stress, extra sessions with the fitness coach, and sometimes even disappointment - Washington has been departing all too frequently in the early stages of the playoffs lately. Still, hockey for Alexander is not only work, but also joy. After all, isn't that what sports are all about?
He is the man the entire hockey world is riveted to today. Ovechkin has entered a competition with Wayne Gretzky, which means he's competing with eternity. After all, the 894 pucks thrown by the great Canadian, under whom the game of all his teams was shaped, seemed something immutable and as if forever existed, like the pyramids of ancient Egypt. And now there is a man who wants to overthrow that record, to build his own miracle of the world, a hockey miracle. He needs to score 114 more pucks, which means he will surprise the whole world with his longevity.
Meanwhile, Ovechkin is already in the same cohort for world hockey as Gretzky. He's not guarded as a super-valuable weapon by the whole team, as it was with the Canadian. Alexander is on the ice everywhere, not just in his "office" in the left throw-in circle. More than that, he has become a more subtle, more team-oriented hockey player as he's gotten older. He's a good assistant, he works on defense and sometimes he even throws himself under the puck at the Washington gate. At the same time he's not a machine - for all his excellent qualities. Can he take credit for the playoffs this past season? Was he successful at the Olympics? Is there not enough criticism for every slump, without which it is impossible to go a long season. Whenever Washington fails, he is the main target, because Ovechkin is a true team player.
That's probably why the dream of catching up with Gretzky isn't the main thing for him. Near the end of his career, Ovechkin wants to win the Stanley Cup again. He's only lifted overseas hockey's top trophy over his head once - in 2018 - and he wants to experience the thrill again.
"As soon as I realize I'm sick of hockey, that I don't like it anymore and my love is gone, then, understandably, it's time to end," he admitted in July while spending the summer in Russia. Apparently, the far corner of the closet in Ovechkin's house will remain empty for a long time to come.