Ovechkin Overseas: China Edition

Alex Ovechkin is hockey’s ambassador. Sponsored by the NHL, the Washington Capitals captain visited Beijing, China this past month, helping kick off celebrations with the apex of the 2022 Winter Olympics. The trip included youth hockey development, media engagement and official meetings. His participation was part of the NHL and the NHLPA’s commitment to advancing the game of hockey on the global stage.

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Ovechkin and Henrik Lundqvist shake hands in the postseason. Photo by Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Perfect Pick for NHL Promotion

We certainly like to think that Ovechkin was the perfect pick as league ambassador. The Russian left-winger leads all major categories in the NHL among active players. His cumulative career stats rank first in goals (658), power-play goals (247), power-play points (464), game-winning goals (107) and shots (5,234). He also holds first place in points (1,211), hat tricks (23), overtime goals (22) and multi-goal games (132) for the Capitals franchise. Despite entering the scene in 2005, the 33-year-old still leads the NHL in goals since 1994-95 and shots since 1993-94. He carries a lot more crowning achievements, but the point is proven.

As asserted: Ovechkin was the perfect pick as the NHL ambassador. Why not lead hockey on the world stage? Why not be the world leader? Too much?

Fans from Around the World

We will let you decide how the forward fared on the world stage – and whether he is worthy of global promotion.

Washington Capitals bench
Washington Capitals bench celebrates (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Ovechkin’s trip kicked off with several young fans meeting the star at the Beijing airport. Excited greeters sported his jersey and proudly clung to welcoming signs. To greet the Capitals forward was one of his biggest fans: 10-year-old William Ye, who traveled over 600 miles to meet Ovechkin. The two hung out later, played video games and conducted Chinese writing lessons with the player seemingly proficient in everything else.

Day one of the international visit also featured a hockey tournament hosted by ORG Technology Co. Mr. Zhou Yunjie, the current chairman, who accompanied Ovechkin for the ceremonial puck drop before the game between ORG vs. Kunlun Red Stars. Afterwards, Ovechkin was presented with a jade carving of an ox to signify his Chinese birth year. He then presented numerous fans with his autograph and photo opportunities.

Dreams Do Come True

The second day saw Ovechkin at Shougang Industrial Park, a retired steel factory, to lead 40 local 12U hockey players for a clinic. The grounds are home to the 2022 Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee and future ski jumping site. For the hockey player’s purposes, Ovechkin spent his time at the ice rink with kids who experienced a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Players practiced their skills, shot pucks on net and participated in on-ice games. One (grown) kid, Peter Zhong, got to coach the clinic alongside one of his heroes. Zhong, currently attending Arizona State University, was in town with his college hockey team to participate in ORG’s Renaissance Cup. One minute, you’re in the dorms. The next minute, you’re on the ice with Ovechkin. The redshirt freshman, born in Beijing, even got to swap jerseys with the scoring superstar at day’s end.

Past, Present and Future

Next on the itinerary was a trip to the Forbidden City. In the past, the imperial palace acted as the ceremonial and political center of the Chinese government, home to 24 emperors spanning the Ming dynasty to the Qing dynasty. Today, the compound attracts close to 80,000 tourists every day. Several weeks ago, Ovechkin was one of those numbers. Probably the most important one. His adorable zeal made an appearance as he rubbed several ornamental doorknobs in accordance with Chinese legends. Tradition dictates that touching the handles, arranged to symbolize a ranking system, will bring visitors luck and fortune.

Following a private tour, Ovechkin was back on the ice. This time, the leader of the Capitals visited Bloomage Live, one of the rinks for the future Olympics. A ball hockey exhibition allowed 60 local kids to show off their skills. He did some showing off himself, demonstrating his hardest shot for the future players of the game. Legend has it that Russia forward signed nearly 100 autographs for well-wishers and starry-eyed kids.

Alex Ovechkin (Sammi Silber/THW)

3 Great Things in China

The last day had a firework-worthy finale: The Great Wall. The Great Eight followed in the footsteps of The Great One; not just on the ice, but off the ice as well. The greatest hockey player in history was the first to visit the Great Wall with the Stanley Cup, its first trip to the landmark and the country. So much greatness.

It was Ovechkin’s turn to take the trip to one of the world’s greatest wonders. The hockey player took a chair lift to the top and explored the ancient structure. If you want visuals, head over to his social media for the full effect. He seemed enamored and energized, if, albeit a little thirsty from the hot weather. After taking a toboggan down to the bottom, he toured around the shops and purchased a stone with his name in Chinese characters. Fun fact: within Ovechkin’s Chinese name is an eight. He has been entitled 奥八爷 (Ào bā yé). The characters both sound like his last name and allude to his NHL nickname. It cannot be a coincidence that the letter eight is considered lucky in Chinese culture.

Sorry, everyone. No other player deserves the title quite like Ovechkin. So, in conclusion, we all bow down to hockey’s greatest ambassador: The Great Eight.