Dressed in workout pants and flip-flops, there's no sign of the jubilant personality that's prompted Don Cherry to sneeringly call him a "goof." Instead, Ovechkin is soft-spoken and modest when asked about his role in reigniting hockey fever in a town better known for games involving politics and pigskin.
"It's not me, it's the whole organization," Ovechkin said. "I have some kind of trust to be who I am right now. The coaches in our organization and the players trust me, so I just try to do what I can do. And I love it, what I'm doing."
But there's no denying Ovechkin's status as the league's top goal-scorer, not to mention his entertaining on-ice antics, have helped sell out every home game this season. Ovechkin jerseys are a common sight in the D.C. area, not just in the city proper but in the sprawling Maryland and Virginia suburbs that encircle the town.
Ovechkin's teammates credit him with resurrecting the city's love affair with NHL hockey.
"When you have an Alex Ovechkin in your organization, they all want to come see him play," Brooks Laich, a 26-year-old forward from Wawota, Sask., said after practice. "And the response around town has been great. Everywhere you walk, you see jerseys, you see shirts, you see people wearing red ... Washington is a hockey town."
Nate Ewall, director of media relations for the Caps, agrees.
"The most amazing thing to me has been not just the sellouts, but how much more you see Caps hats and T-shirts around town, or hear people talking about the Caps," he said. "I'll wear a Caps shirt on the weekend and have people talk to me about the game the night before - that never used to happen."
As of October 29, 2009:
1. Alex Ovechkin, WSH 22
2. Anze Kopitar, LA 21
3. Dustin Penner, EDM 19
4. Marian Gaborik, NYR 18
5. Patrick Marleau, SJ 17
1. Alex Ovechkin, WSH 13
2. Anze Kopitar, LA 10
3. Marian Gaborik, NYR 10
4. Patrick Marleau, SJ 10
5. Dustin Penner, EDM 9
Go, go Ovechkin!