We all know and love the captain Alexander Ovechkin. From his off-ice, exuberant personality, to his on-ice, mastery display of skill, Ovie has become the staple of hockey in the nation’s capital.
Since Ovechkin played his first game in a Capitals sweater in 2005, the team has gone 359-254-91. They also have played in the postseason six times, finishing first in what used to be the Southeastern Division five of those times.
Numbers aside, it is without a doubt that since Ovie has taken the ice at the Verizon Center, the mindset of hockey in DC has changed. I remember when I was about seven years old and tickets were ridiculously cheap, the MCI Center was half-empty, and people really couldn’t care less about the sport.
However, it has changed dramatically ever since June 26, 2004: the day the Caps drafted Ovie.
Nowadays, F Street is packed on game nights, the atmosphere is electric, and people are genuinely excited for the puck to drop. All of this has escalated since the drafting of Ovie in 2004. While it may not be 100% due to Ovie, the Caps have made a name for themselves around the league. As a domino effect, it has had an impact on the city as a whole.
Take this for example: In this upcoming hockey season, my high school potentially has about 25 freshmen trying out for the hockey team. In previous years, there have been about four, maybe five, new freshmen who tried out. Freshmen in high school this year are about fourteen or fifteen years old, meaning they were born in ’00-’01. When Ovie started playing for the Caps, these kids were around five years old, which is a typical age for young kids to learn to skate and play hockey.
Today, the Caps are holding many more events that appeal to its younger fan base. Caps Fan Fest offers autographs, face-paintings, and fun for the whole family. A more recently established event is the Caps youth shoot-out, where young fans from all over the area compete in a shoot-out in their local rinks, looking for a chance to take a penalty shot in front of the Verizon Center faithful.
Ovechkin has inspired a whole generation of young kids to take on the ice. Hockey is slowly creeping its way into becoming a religion around the 202, 240, 703, and 301.
Am I surprised? No. Ovechkin brings a source of excitement into every area he enters.
Am I excited? Of course. I cannot wait to see what the “Ovechkin Effect” does to the area over the long term.