EDMONTON — Alex Ovechkin really didn’t even want to talk about it.
He’d been outed on a random act of kindness on a cool October evening in Edmonton, spotted by a local hockey fan while out with his teammates on a Friday night. The fan tweeted that Ovechkin had taken "off his winter jacket and hat and (gave) it to a homeless man he passed on the street."
It was, at a time when Twitter brings us more angst and conflict than warm fuzzies, just a really nice, impromptu moment of kindness. But you know how Twitter can work. In reality, what occurred was a little bit different.
It was actually, if this is possible, just a little bit better.
"(It was) nothing," Ovechkin shrugged the next morning. "I just went … with (Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov), I saw the guy; no shirt. Went to the store to buy him a sweater, coat and a hat.
"He was like, ‘Are you serious?’ He was a little bit shocked," Ovechkin said.
In fact, simply peeling off his own coat and hat on a warmish Edmonton autumn night as the tweet suggested would have been extremely kind, and not very time consuming. But what Ovechkin did was even more caring, gathering up an Edmonton street dweller and taking him to a store to properly clothe him.
Could you imagine spending a winter on these streets? In North America’s northernmost major city, where overnight temperatures will soon dip below minus-15 or minus-20, and the homeless shelters bulge at their over-used and under-funded seams.
I don’t know Ovechkin personally, so I am simply impressed, not surprised by his kindness. People around the Capitals, however, they give off an aura that they could tell more of these stories, if they felt like Ovechkin wouldn’t prefer they be kept quiet.
"He’s a guy that he does his thing and is not necessarily worried about what other people are going to think about him," said teammate Tom Wilson. "That’s a guy who wouldn’t do that for the attention; he’s doing that because he felt it was the right thing to do at the time."
The next night, on Hockey Night in Canada, Ovechkin counted three assists in a 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers. It was Ovechkin’s first three-assist night in almost three years, as the sniper turned into the provider.
Giving, giving, giving.
"Sometimes magic happens, you know?" he chuckled, again, not overly enthusiastic about dwelling on his second All-Star performance in as many nights in the Alberta capital.
It was quite a trip to Edmonton for Ovechkin, leaving the Oilers to pay it forward to Sidney Crosby, whose Penguins are the 3-6-1 Oilers next opponent on Wednesday.
"He’s always unselfish," said Kuznetsov, who had two third period goals, the first assisted by Ovechkin.
Sure, the Capitals superstar makes $9.5 million per season. He won’t even notice those clothes on his credit card, right?
That’s not the point, folks. In a world where human kindness is so often overshadowed by tragedy, and coming from an American city where that country’s leader exudes every quality that opposes what Ovechkin brought to the streets of Edmonton, this Russian hockey player helped the sun come up a little bit here Saturday morning.
He didn’t have to be a great guy. Nobody asked him to.
But Ovechkin did it anyway, and God bless him for it.
"I think what you’re going to find in hockey in general is that they’re pretty giving people," Caps coach Barry Trotz said. "They give of their time and of their blessings, and that doesn’t surprise me at all."
After Saturday’s thrashing, the coach on the other side wasn’t feeling so magnanimous. The Oilers are back in the glue, and staring down a 3-7-1 start if they can’t beat the Penguins on Wednesday.
"Let’s not kid ourselves, we’re an eighth into the season," said head coach Todd McLellan. "There are a lot of points that have gone by. You never get them back. It’s tough not only falling behind in the game, but it’s tough falling behind in the season. So we have a lot — a lot — of work ahead of us. We’re going to have to play better than we have, it’s as simple as that.
"We don’t have enough players playing at their capabilities, or at least what we believe their capabilities are, to consistently win."