The 64th in our 118-part series.
We both studied Russian in high school, and we both went on month-long “exchange” trips to Moscow (in which we hung out with a group of our American classmates and never spoke a word of Russian because our host school was an English-language specialty school where the Kindergarteners literally spoke better English than we did) when we were teenagers. While on our respective visits abroad, we both encountered examples of that most wonderful type of person: the crazy Russian exchange student. The crazy Russian exchange student is most often a guy, most often is 16 or 17, and is probably most closely translated to the American archetype of the “Class Clown”, but a lot is lost in that translation (things like his goofy accent, playful and creative approach to vocabulary, and typically Russian mindset). The best example we have of the crazy Russian exchange student is a tale Schnookie brings from her visit to one cathedral or another (they really all do run together). This particular cathedral was the resting place of many of the Tsars, and the group tour wended past their sarcophagi as the handful of American and Russian students just shuffled along dutifully while trying to pay attention to the tour guide. Suddenly Schnookie realized the kid behind her in line, Dima, certifed crazy Russian exchange student, was very quietly knocking on the tops of all the sarcophagi. And along with the knocking, he was saying repeatedly, just loud enough for the people immediately ahead of and behind him in line to hear, “Wake up, asshole.” Perhaps it was because Schnookie was 15 and homesick and traveling overseas for the first time in her life, but she found this utterly hysterical.
And this brings us to Alexander Ovechkin. There has never been a more clear-cut crazy Russian exchange student in the NHL than Ovie. His fearlessness with giving interviews in limited English (and joking during those interviews), his relentless affability, his goofy and self-deprecating sense of humor — these are all the essential elements of the type. And on top of being just so utterly lovable in that regard, he’s a hell of a hockey player and really, really wants to be one of the new generation of superstars the NHL so desperately needs. Frankly, we don’t think the league really could overexpose this guy to the point where we’d want him to go away; seriously, what’s not to love about a guy who’s got a resume packed with highlight-reel goals and is relentless in his desire to make people laugh?