By Neil Becker
Most sports fans would probably be amazed to know that Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin isn't the only world-class athlete in his family.
This future Hockey Hall of Famer, who currently sits sixth all-time with 730 career NHL goals, comes from some elite athletic bloodlines, including his father Mikhail Ovechkin, who made a name for himself as a professional soccer player and mother Tatyana Ovechkina, who made her mark playing basketball.
During a Hall of Fame basketball career, Ovechkina, a former Soviet Russian phenom, achieved some thrilling accomplishments. She won Olympic gold medals in 1976 and 1980, along with six European Championships and the 1975 World Championships.
In honouring his mother's playing career, Ovechkin wears on his uniform number 8, which is the same number his mom wore on the basketball court.
According to the Washington Capitals star, his parents passed on their athletic genes and taught him how to carry himself in the public's eye.
"I wish every hockey player could have the experience I had with my parents," Ovechkin expressed to Dan Rosen for NHL.com. In that same story, he went on to add,
"When you're growing up, you have to understand you never stay the same guy. You have to grow up and take care of yourself. My parents helped me a lot. I owe a lot to my parents. Lots of hockey players, they work hard, but they do some bad things and now they're working in a shop and doing nothing. I just knew I had my goal and I wanted to get this goal. I wish every hockey player could have the experience I had with my parents."
Though his parents excelled at different sports, it was hockey which at the early age of 2 years old piqued Ovechkin's interest. Since showing that desire for the sport, both Mikhail and Tatyana strongly encouraged him to play the sport he loved.
"My father (Mikhail), I remember, he would go on some trips and bring me some goalie helmets," Ovechkin said in the same NHL.com article. "I didn't know what it was, except it was something about hockey, and when I was a little kid, everything was about hockey, hockey, hockey."
In that article, Ovechkin also added,
"My family always had money. I had everything I wanted when I was a little kid like expensive sticks and fancy uniforms. I always had money, and money doesn't change me. I stay the same way, stay the same person."
Tatyana Ovechkina, who was once selected by readers of the Russian publication Sport Select as the best female point guard in the 20th century, showed her talents as a tough, no-nonsense negotiator when talking contract for her son.
Back in early January 2008, Ovechkina and Mikhail were visiting Washington when Ovechkin was in the midst of contract talks with the Capitals.
Showing to have her son's best interest at heart, Ovechkina showed tremendous determination at the negotiating table as she played an instrumental role in helping her son land what was an incredible 13-year deal worth 124 million dollars.
According to a 2008 Sports Illustrated story, Ovechkin’s mom was described as having quite a close bond with her son.
"Tatyana gives her son love, counsel, toughness, dinner—when she and her husband, Mikhail, make periodic visits to his home in the D.C. suburb of Arlington VA-and the occasional beating at games of H-O-R-S-S-E.," she said through an interpreter in the article.
During negotiations on this historical contract, as the article details, Ovechkin's mom stood firm on a no-trade contract. In a compromise, she agreed on a proposal from Capitals General Manager George McPhee that in the seventh year of the contract, Ovechkin would make a list of 10 teams he wouldn't give his consent for a trade.
"I wouldn't call her uncompromising because she did, in fact, compromise," McPhee said about Tatyana in the article. "But Alex's mother is very strong, very protective. And she knows what she wants."
As a result of tradition, Ovechkin's parents don't sit together during Capitals games. During different times in the game, the Capitals superstar often gives eye contact to his parents.
"She has so much experience," Ovechkin said in the Sports Illustrated article. "We are both professional athletes. Mom is a strong athlete and a strong person."
Meanwhile, as father Mikhail Ovechkin excelled at one time as representing his son as the voluntary press officer, it was the economic side that included the tough negotiations that Tatyana always took pride in.
Another example of Ovechkin's mom going to bat for him occurred in 2012 when during the NHL lockout, she assisted Ovechkin in landing a lucrative deal with the KHL champions Dynamo Moscow worth 6.5 million dollars if he played the entire year.
In early February 2019, Ovechkin's parents wrote an inspiring open letter of congratulations to their son and some friendly advice after he scored his 1,180th career point, which moved him a point ahead of Sergei Fedorov as the current number one all-time USSR leading NHL point scorer.
"It is very important, son, that you know how to bring people joy. We felt it ourselves last June. We saw hundreds of thousands of hockey fans taking to the streets in Washington. We know how people in Russia literally cried with happiness when you beat the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final. With your game, you are capable of evoking incredibly strong emotions among real fans."
This open letter was written a few years ago and was on the Washington Capitals Twitter page.
As Ovechkin heads into the twilight of his illustrious career, one thing is for certain. Until his final game, he will always have the great support and love from his parents Mikhail and Tatyana, who, after all these years, have become a fixture to fans at the Capitals home games.
Photos courtesy of Alexander Ovechkin's Instagram | @aleksandrovechkinofficial