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5 fun facts you may not have known about new Capital Ilya Kovalchuk

5 fun facts you may not have known about new Capital Ilya Kovalchuk

On Sunday, the Capitals traded for Ilya Kovalchuk making him the newest player on the team and perhaps the last piece to what Brian MacLellan is hoping will be a championship roster.

Kovalchuk should be a familiar name for most hockey fans considering he was a superstar player in his prime, but here are five fun facts you may not know about the Capitals’ newest forward.

Reirden and Kovalchuk were teammates in Atlanta

Before he was an NHL coach, Reirden had a journeyman’s NHL career with stops in Edmonton, St. Louis, Atlanta and Phoenix. His one season in Atlanta came in 2001-02, which was Kovalchuk’s rookie season.

"He was very underrated I think,” Kovalchuk said of Reirden. “He had big shots, scored some goals, but I think he was more a stay-home defenseman, but great off the ice. We spent a lot of time together on the road and he teach me some English, I teach him some Russian. I think he knows more than I expect, Russian words.”

It may have only been one season, but Kovalchuk and Reirden hit it off. Reirden credits the very little Russian he knows to the time he spent with Kovalchuk that year. He even had him and fellow teammate, Dany Heatley, over for Thanksgiving that year.

“[Kovalchuk] was the one that we first started on the word exchange,” Reirden said. “Obviously now his English is perfect and my Russian still is not perfect. That was when I was realized, I was a sixth, seventh defenseman on the Atlanta Thrashers and our team wasn't very good. We got to Thanksgiving time and I didn't feel like enough time was being spent with those players to help them get ready to play in the NHL. So I remember Thanksgiving having both of them over to my house and my wife cooking a Thanksgiving meal for them. So that was the first time we really started to connect.”

Kovalchuk is on the cap for four different teams

As part of the trade that brought him to Washington, Montreal agreed to retain half of Kovalchuk’s salary. That means he is counting $350,000 against the cap for both teams. In addition, Kovalchuk is still on the books in Los Angeles for $6.25 million for both this year and next after his contract was terminated. And, though it feels like a long time ago at this point, Kovalchuk continues to count against the cap for the New Jersey Devils. That massive 15-year contract that Kovalchuk signed in 2010 will continue to cost the Devils $250,000 in cap recapture penalty through the 2024-25 season.

Kovalchuk is an Olympic gold medalist

Alex Ovechkin has a Cup, but Kovalchuk has something that Ovechkin does not and that is an Olympic gold medal. Since the NHL chose not to participate in the 2018 Olympics, Ovechkin was not able to suit up for the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) team. Kovalchuk at that time was playing in the KHL so he was free to represent his country, or at least he was free to play for a team of a bunch of people from the same country but who definitely weren't representing that country...or something like that. The OAR team went on to win gold, the first for Russia since the country participated as the Unified Team in 1992 with all the countries that made up the Soviet Union.

Kovalchuk has two different-colored eyes

Move over, Max Scherzer. You’re not the only athlete with different color eyes.

Heterochromia iridium is the condition in which one eye is a different color from the other. Scherzer has it and so does Kovalchuk.

Many of you out there are trying to Google a picture of Kovalchuk right now or are wondering how you never noticed this before. The reasons is because Kovalchuk’s heterochromia is much more subtle than Scherzer’s. Instead of having two completely different eye colors like Scherzer has with one brown and one blue, Kovalchuk’s eyes are light brown and dark brown. Most people wouldn’t notice unless you stood close to him or got a very up-close picture.

The Caps are one of two teams with two of the top-five active goal scorers on the roster

Ovechkin obviously has the most goals among all active players with 701. In Kovalchuk, the Caps added the No. 4 active scorer with 442 career NHL goals. Only one other team in the league can boast having two of the top five and, of course, that team is the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Sidney Crosby is third among active players with 459 goals and he is now teammates with Patrick Marleau, who was acquired in a deadline trade. With 561 goals, Marleau is second only to Ovechkin.

That’s a lot of goals between those four players. Ovechkin and Kovalchuk have a total of 1,143 goals with Crosby and Marleau combining for 1,020.

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Backstrom backs away from previous comment that Ovechkin is always yelling for the puck

Backstrom backs away from previous comment that Ovechkin is always yelling for the puck

With no live sports to watch, people have to find ways to pass the time. A fun way to do it is with NBC Sports Washington's NHL 20 simulations of the Capitals' scheduled games. Some of the players have even gotten involved joining the broadcast or reacting to the game results. So now, we have Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin providing commentary plus actual players reacting to a video game simulation. What a time to be alive.

Nicklas Backstrom was the star of the first game that was broadcast on NBC Sports Washington -- a 5-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on March 24 -- with a hat trick performance. The real Backstrom gave a FaceTime interview afterward and said, "I don't do hat tricks that often, so it was nice to seal it off with a hat trick. You see what happens when you can't hear Ovi scream all the time for the puck."

On Wednesday, Backstrom joined the media for a Zoom video conference and was asked about that very answer. He quickly clarified that it was meant as a joke.

"You know what?" he said. "I felt so awkward doing that interview to be honest. I'm like, I've got to try to make this funny as possible. I don't know how to answer questions about simulation games. That was obviously a joke."

When you think about a real person having to do an interview about their digital player's performance, you can see how things could get awkward pretty quickly. Then again, if Ovechkin were always calling for the puck it would not be that surprising. He is, after all, one of the greatest goal scorers of all time. He could be forgiven for wanting the puck on his stick as often as possible.

Backstrom, however, said of Ovechkin that he doesn't need to call for the puck. Part of what makes him great is his ability to find the best place to be to score at all times.

"I think looking at it, [Ovechkin's] never yelling for the puck," Bacsktrom said. "He's just that good of a goal-scorer and I'm happy to give him the puck every time too. I was just trying to make that funny interview."

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Hath's Heroes is keeping Garnet Hathaway busy during the quarantine

Hath's Heroes is keeping Garnet Hathaway busy during the quarantine

Like the rest of us, Capitals' winger Garnet Hathaway is just trying to stay sane and helping out where he can.

His charity, Hath's Heroes, which provides meals to first responders, is especially important in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Hath's Heroes started working with Capitals' Chef Robert "Robbie" Wood to provide even more meals to first responders, which Wood is matching, plus an additional meal to a high-risk individual in need.

“Chef Robbie has been serving the Caps for a long time and makes unbelievable food, I can attest to it, and they also have a great initiative with Kid Power and DC Central Kitchen," Hathaway said on the Capitals Talk Podcast.

While many are fortunate to be able to work from home or be with family during the pandemic, first responders are out on the front lines.

“It’s the social responsibility of staying safe, keeping your distance and trying to stay healthy and protecting those around you," Hathaway said. "So I feel that’s where we can all feel great about helping somebody, by taking responsibility for your actions and helping out if you can."

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Doing one's part is important to flatten the curve and Hathaway says donations of any amount are appreciated.

“For donations, if you can, if you have the opportunity to and you’re capable of, any amount really does make a difference.”

When he's not working with Hath's Heroes, Hathaway has been spending time with his fianceé and dog and trying to learn the Harmonica he got for Christmas. "Silent Night" was the first song he learned to play.

“Months away from the Christmas season, but I think I’ll be ready by then," Hathaway said.

Aside from downtime, Hathaway has taken solace in finding structure in his day.

“I think the biggest thing is trying to find a structure that works, that I can stay physically healthy and mentally healthy." 

“For everyone that’s feeling cooped up in their house, they gotta stay active and they gotta get some fresh air and they gotta stay healthy," Hathaway said.

While everyone has been binge-watching Netflix's hit documentary "Tiger King," Hathaway says he hasn't had the opportunity to watch yet.

“I might be the only person in America not watching Tiger King, but that’s not to say that I won’t get there at some point."

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