A very special eighth all-star game for Ovechkin

The 2023 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend, including the game at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Fla. on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; TVAS, CBC, SN, ABC, ESPN+), will be the first to be attended by the sons of Washington Capitals left-winger Sergei, 4, and Ilya, 2, with his wife Nastya.

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« The kids will be there, » Ovechkin said. So yes, it will be fun. »

This will be the eighth All-Star game in which Ovechkin will participate, a high among players present this season. The 37-year-old has been picked on five other occasions without taking part (2012, 2016, 2019, 2020, 2022), including when he tested positive for COVID-19 three days before the Las Vegas festivities last season last.

He can’t wait to get back there this season.

« Unfortunately, sometimes you can’t go for a number of different reasons, » Ovechkin said. But when you get the chance to go, it’s a great opportunity to play with the best players, have fun and enjoy the good times with the guys. »

Ovechkin had 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in his seven previous All-Star Game appearances. His fondest memory of the event remains his first appearance in 2007 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. As part of the Eastern Conference team, Ovechkin scored one goal in a 12-9 loss to the Western Conference.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Ovechkin Sidney Crosby and Florida Panthers center Eric Staal (who was then playing with the Carolina Hurricanes) are the only players still active to have taken part in this game. Some of Ovechkin’s teammates with the East, Brendan Shanahan, Marian Hossa, Martin St-Louis and Martin Brodeur, ended up in the Hockey Hall of Fame, as did Roberto Luongo, Nicklas Lidstrom, Joe Sakic and Teemu Selanne, who played with the West.

« Several great players, » Ovechkin said. We spend time together, we go out and we have fun. It was awesome. »

A lot has changed in the five years since Ovechkin last appeared at the All-Star Game in 2018 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. Crosby (fifth appearance) and Columbus Blue Jackets left winger Johnny Gaudreau (seventh) are the only other players among the 11 in the Metropolitan section team to have participated in this match. And this is Gaudreau’s first meeting with the Metropolitan, after representing the Calgary Flames six times with the Pacific Division.

At the time, Ovechkin was 20th in League history with 588 goals. Later that season, he led the Washington Capitals to their first Stanley Cup.

Now in his 18th season, Ovechkin is the second-leading scorer in NHL history (812), having passed the late Gordie Howe (801) with his 802nd goal against the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 23. He is trying to catch Wayne Gretzky, who holds the league record with 894 goals.

Ovechkin hasn’t slowed down this season. He leads the Capitals with 32 goals in 50 games heading into their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday (5 p.m. ET; TSN4, NBCSWA, NHLN, SN NOW).

“He was a representative (in the All-Star Game) because he was an elite player throughout his career and still today,” said Capitals coach Peter Laviolette.  » […] He’s been a star player in the League since he landed here. I still think it’s an honor to be selected and to represent your team. I took part in it myself. It’s very pleasant. These are great times for the players and their families as well as the fans and hockey in general. »

Ovechkin had brought family members to previous All-Star Games, including his parents and brother, but he was not yet a father when he last took part in the event, in 2018. Sergei was born later in the year on August 18, 2018, and Ilya was born on May 27, 2020.

Sergei and Ilya were at Capital One Arena with Nastya when Ovechkin passed Howe and they’ve attended a few other Capitals home games this season. Sergei has also skated with his dad after Capitals practices a few times this season.

During the all-star game, Sergei will be able to observe some of the biggest names in the NHL up close.

« It’s great, » Ovechkin said. He is feverish. He will have fun. It will be a beautiful moment. »

It will be fun for Ovechkin too. Capitals forward TJ Oshie recalls how he felt sharing the experience of the 2020 All-Star Game at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis with his daughters Lyla and Leni, who were 5 and 3 years old respectively at the time.

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« The presence of children there is very important, » said Oshie. Ovi is on another level compared to us, but in the end, he is a father like the others. Your children consider you a hero because you are their father, not because you are good at hockey or appear on promotional posters. The presence of your children there to share with you this achievement is very important. It allows you to create a chemistry with them and it allows them to be part of the great moments of your career. »

Ovechkin doesn’t yet know who he’ll play with in the All-Star Game or what event he’ll compete in during the 2023 NHL Skills Presented by DraftKings on Friday (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, SN, ESPN, ESPN+). He won the hardest shot event in 2018.

Ovechkin has seen other players’ children compete in the skills contest with their dad in the past, but he’s not sure if Sergei is up for it.

« I don’t think he has enough skill right now, » Ovechkin said. So I do not know. »

Having seen Sergei in action, Oshie is convinced that he could hold his own.

« I’m sure he will, if he decides to go on the ice, » Oshie said. Nobody hits me harder in the hand, so I’m sure he’ll go around the players in the locker room. I know he has a minifigure collection at home, so he’ll get to see several of the players in the flesh, which will be great for him.

“He loves hockey, so I’m sure he’ll have a great time. »

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