QUEBEC – The waiting game is on for Alex Ovechkin.
The NHL’s leading scorer has joined Russia ahead of the IIHF World Hockey Championship but isn’t yet able to practise or play with the team because he hasn’t been insured. The Russian Ice Hockey Federation will be on the hook for insuring Ovechkin and the record-setting $124-million, 13-year contract he signed with the Washington Capitals earlier this year.
He’s anxious to get playing and believes that everything will be taken care of before the tournament opens May 2.
“I came here to play with my team,” Ovechkin said Monday after working out at Le Colisee Pepsi. “When you don’t know if you’re going to play or not, it’s a hard situation. I’m waiting, that’s what I have to do – just wait.”
His presence should certainly be a big boost to a Russian team that wants to atone for failing to deliver gold in front of the home fans last spring in Moscow. Ovechkin was part of the team that won bronze after being upset by Finland in the semifinals.
He’ll be joined here by familiar faces in Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Semin, who each finished the season in Washington.
“This year it will be fun because we have three guys on my team,” said Ovechkin. “We’re close friends.
“Me, Feds and Semin are great teammates and we’ll stick together here too.”
Fedorov is playing in his first world championship since 1990, when he was part of the Soviet Union squad that won gold in Switzerland.
Nashville Predators forward Alex Radulov has also joined the Russians. That’s a popular addition for the fans in this city as Radulov was a star with the Quebec Remparts when they won the Memorial Cup in 2006.
He lived with Remparts coach Patrick Roy while playing here and is happy to be back in the city.
“I’m going to see a lot of friends,” said Radulov. “The main (thing) for me is to be here and win something. I love to be in Quebec, back here, but hockey’s first.”
There’s no bigger star at this tournament than Ovechkin. He led the entire NHL with 65 goals and 112 points this season and is a finalist for the Hart Trophy.
With Canada playing its opening seven tournament games in Halifax, the Russians will be the highest-profile team in Quebec early in the event. Organizers have been selling Ovechkin even before he committed to coming – a giant 15-metre poster of him hangs on the side of one local mall.
The flashy forward has good memories from a past international event in Canada.
“I played in world junior when we won in Halifax (in 2003),” said Ovechkin. “It was an unbelievable atmosphere and I hope it will be the same.”
Amazingly, Russia’s last world championship win came all the way back in 1993. Canada has won five gold medals since then.
Ovechkin and his teammates hope that the gold-medal drought ends in the coming weeks.
“It’s a big tournament for our country,” he said.