Alex Ovechkin has had quite an offseason, from getting to know a new coach [Adam Oates] and getting to play in front of his family and friends [in the KHL] to getting engaged to Russian tennis star Maria Kirlenko.
In an exclusive conversation with CSNWashington on Monday, Ovechkin shared his feelings about the love of his life, how it affects the way he plays and achieving happiness.
Chuck Gormley: Can we talk about Maria? How did the two of you meet?
Alex Ovechkin: We had a media day in New York and the U.S. Open was there. Me and my agent went there and Maria was warming up and I went there and said hi and we started a relationship.
Did you hit it off right away?
Yes, right away.
When you first started dating was it hard to make time with each other with your two busy schedules?
Of course it’s hard, but we’re together and it’s not going to be a situation where she ends her career to be with me all the time. We have to take it step-by-step.
What do you like about her?
Everything. You can talk, you can laugh, you can joke, you can not talk and you still feel comfortable with her. Coming home is always nice. Everything is good. When you come back home you have to feel comfortable there. I feel very comfortable with her.
When did you know she was the one?
I knew right away. Not at the moment I met her, but when we started talking and started dating of course I started thinking about it.
Is it important that you marry someone who is Russian?
No. When you’re in love it doesn’t what matter what country you’re from.
How did you decide on a ring? Was she surprised?
We talked about it. My friend owns a company and she picked out a ring. I was on a road trip [with Dynamo Moscow] one day and she texted me a picture of it and she said, ‘What do you think?’ and I said, ‘Great, I’ll take it.’
And you proposed on New Year’s Eve?
Yeah. On New Year’s eve we were together in our room and it happened.
Did you get down on one knee?
And did she say yes right away?
She said yes because we talked about it already.
How does it feel?
It feels normal. It feels good to settle down. It’s always nice when you have that kind of personality on your shoulder. It’s good.
How do your parents feel about her?
We have a very good relationship with her parents and my parents. It’s always nice when parents get along, too.
Do you think your relationships off the ice have an impact on how you play?
Of course. It used to be I did some crazy things in the summer and during the year sometimes, but right now I slow down. Like this summer I went with her to all her tournaments, so I have to be in the same position that she is. I have to support her. If she has to wake up at 7, I have to wake up at 7 as well, just to be with her all the time. The first couple days it was hard because I had the day off and I wanted to do something else besides go to [tennis] practice and go to sleep at 11 on my day off. OK, can I get used to it? And I got used to it pretty good.
How do both of you like to spend your free time?
We just lay down on the couch and watch movies, just talking and spending time with friends. Most of the time with my friends, of course. It’s fun when you go somewhere and you know she is with me. Everybody knows, OK, they are here. It’s not like you go somewhere by yourself and you start looking to see who’s here. I know she’s here and she’s safe with me and I know in case I go somewhere she’s safe with my friends and her friends. It’s nice.
In Part II of our interview, Ovechkin talks about his relationship with Bruce Boudreau, Dale Hunter and new Capitals' coach Adam Oates.