There is a photo floating around the Twitter-verse of a young Alex Ovechkin in a black and white Sergei Fedorov jersey.
“I was probably like, maybe 12,” Ovechkin said on Monday, hours before Fedorov will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. “I was a big fan of all Russian players.”
On Tuesday night in Detroit, Ovechkin will have the chance to pass Fedorov as Russia’s all-time leading NHL goal scorer. The fact he can reach the milestone in front of Fedorov, who will be honored by the Red Wings before the game, seems surreal to the Capitals’ 30-year-old captain.
“You always want to be No. 1 and when you have a chance to beat it in front of him it’s going to be nice,” said Ovechkin, whose 483 NHL goals are tied with Fedorov for most by a Russian-born player.
“It’s going to be a special moment for me. It’s going to be nice to see him up there. It’s a big moment for him and for me as well -- if I’m going to break it. You never know.”
Fedorov, who played alongside Ovechkin for parts of his final two seasons in the NHL, told reporters in Toronto he would like to see Ovechkin break his record Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena.
“I would hug him in his uniform," Fedorov said. "He'd be all wet and my suit would be ruined, but I wouldn't care. I'll put it somewhere in the closet. I'd cherish that moment.”
Ovechkin says he cherishes the time he spent playing with Fedorov, who was acquired by the Caps late in the 2007-08 season when Ovechkin carried the Capitals into the playoffs with a monster 65-goal, 112-point season.
“I had a huge privilege to play with him and the luck to be on the same team and on the same line,” Ovechkin said. “He was the best teammate I ever had and the best player I ever had.
“He was almost like a Dad because Bruce (Boudreau) didn’t have experience with the playoffs and he kind of was a player and a coach at the same time. He helped with what we had to do on the ice and how to play.”
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Fedorov, who played with Ovechkin in the 2010 Winter Olympics, finished his NHL career with 483 goals in 1,248 games over 18 seasons. He said he’s not surprised that Ovechkin has caught him after just 772 games over 11 seasons and believes there are hundreds of more goals left in Ovechkin’s sticks.
For a few brief moments Saturday night, Ovechkin experienced what it was like to be Russia’s leading goal scorer when he thought he scored his 484th goal and celebrated by taking his glove off and raising his index finger in the air. A few minutes later, the excitement of that moment was snuffed out when referee Brad Meier announced that a video review determined Justin Williams made contact with goaltender James Reimer, overturrning the on-ice ruling and taking the goal away from Ovechkin.
Maybe there was poetic justice in that decision because Ovechkin now can make history in the city that embraced Fedorov and the other members of the famed Russian Five – Igor Larionov, Vyacheslav Kozlov, Vladimir Konstantinov and Viacheslav Fetisov – two decades ago.
“I respect what he did for Russian hockey and what he did for my career,” Ovechkin said.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who seems more interested in getting out of Detroit with two points, said he’s grown to understand what Ovechkin’s place in Russian hockey means to him.
“He’s very, very proud of the Russian culture,” Trotz said. “Some players are proud of their countries, but with Alex he’s proud about tradition and heritage, and family is really close to him. That’s really outstanding, He’s Americanized, if you will, but he’s not. He respects Russian traditions and that comes from his parents and his upbringing.”
As for his teammates, they are also anxious to see Ovechkin accomplish a personal goal none of them could ever reach.
“We’ve played together for a decade now and every day is fun coming to the rink to play with Alex,” Caps left wing Brooks Laich said. “Every day I get to ride alongside a guy who has a special ability. As far as I’m concerned, he’s probably the best pure goal scorer the game has ever seen. When he breaks that record I’m going to jump for joy for him because it’s going to be a very, very special moment.”