Not to Worry, Kid(s)
Sales of newspapers in Montreal are going to plummet, and somewhere some fifth-grade 2016 draft-eligible kid is sleeping soundly, completely oblivious to the fact that he’s going to be the cornerstone piece of Nashville’s next trade pitch to get Alex Ovechkin — in 2021.
Here in Washington, we weren’t worried much. The only smart thing to do was to sign Ovechkin and for as long a term as reasonably possible. Done and done. None of my media cohorts here and few of the many fans with whom I interact regularly were ever truly worried that the No. 8 car wouldn’t be wheeling around the Verizon track for the foreseeable future.
When Ted Leonsis made the announcement tonight — first playfully teasing and milking it to say “the rumors of a six-year deal are wrong … we signed him for 13 years” — the reaction was one of joy, not relief. Sure there was some relief, but just the relief that we would no longer hear or read the partially-baked ramblings of those who coveted Ovechkin from afar, and those with pretend fingers on pretend pulses of the hockey heartbeat here in the District.
Seriously. The people who have watched this guy play here for the last two and a half years know that there really wasn’t a trade package out there among the other 29 teams that would have been worth the Caps’ while. Players like Ovechkin don’t come down the pike that often. And teams don’t trade guys like that when they’re 22 years old, and they don’t let them walk to pie-in-the-sky RFA offer sheets, either.
The Caps said they wanted Ovie, and Ovie said he wanted to stay. We believed, but others did not. We knew it would get done, it was just a matter of when and how much. Caps GM George McPhee confirmed tonight that talks to retain Ovechkin began last April and that he and the star Caps winger met over the summer in France to further the discussions.
Still not sure why no one reported on that rendezvous.
Rampant speculation and rumor-flinging was the order of the day today, and lots of erroneous info found premature publication prior to the official announcement, which came around 6:30 p.m. The rush to be first is sometimes greater than the rush to be right, and Leonsis tossed a barb toward those who had it wrong:
“I’ll also enjoy tweaking a couple of you on the reporting because you guys weren’t even close with some of this stuff that was floating out there. I’m going to enjoy going through the historical. It was about as close as [those who said], ‘Hillary [Clinton] is going to lose by 20 points in New Hampshire.'”
The season-ticket holder’s party is always a fun night, and it coincided with tonight’s event. Nobody who was there will ever forget this one. With the team on a 10-4-3 roll in its last 17 games and its best player locked up for the long haul, tonight will go down as a red-letter day in Capitals history. I had a blast meeting people who read D&C, listen to the podcast, and love them some Caps and some hockey, including a few who have blogs of their own. (That also goes for the two guys I chatted with during the second intermission of Wednesday’s win over Colorado, the guys who made the drive from Harrisonburg.) Thanks to all of you for making the climb to the press level and taking the time to say hello.
There are plenty of good hockey fans in these parts, and in these surrounding parts. And my bet is that you’re going to start seeing more and more of them filling the seats at Verizon Center before too long. I also like the odds of those good folks witnessing a Stanley Cup banner being raised to the Phone Booth rafters at some time(s) during the upcoming 13 years. Ovie isn’t the only brilliant young player on this team. Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom stuck around to watch the post-party press conference tonight.
It feels like morning in Washington.
The wags, the scribes and the talking heads can talk all they want about Washington being a hockey outpost. The same could be said for Detroit a few years back. These things run in cycles, and the Caps are cycling in the right direction now.
Alex Ovechkin decided he wanted to stay in Washington, to play in Washington. For the next 13 seasons. He chose us.
So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.