ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Russia’s stunning elimination from the Olympic hockey tournament was followed by somber family news for Alex Ovechkin, whose father is recovering from heart surgery after falling ill in Sochi.
Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee said Thursday that Mikhail Ovechkin fell ill following Russia’s game against Slovakia on Sunday. McPhee said Mikhail Ovechkin “probably had a heart attack” and is now stable and out of intensive care.
McPhee said Alex Ovechkin was not told about his father’s situation until Russia was eliminated by Finland in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. He said father and son are still in Sochi, and that Alex Ovechkin will delay his return to the U.S. The Capitals resume their NHL schedule on Tuesday.
“We’ve told him to stay as long as necessary with your dad,” McPhee said.
Alex Ovechkin was Russia’s marquee athlete during the Winter Games, his image prominently displayed in Sochi. He had been looking forward to playing in the Olympics in his home country. Russia’s failure to earn a medal was both a national and personal letdown for the 28-year-old three-time NHL MVP.
“It’s certainly going to be a most difficult time in his life,” McPhee said. “The Olympics meant a great deal to him, and his father’s sick, so this is not going to be easy for him. But when he comes back, we expect that he’ll give us everything he’s got, as he always has.”
Mikhail Ovechkin is a former professional soccer player who has been involved in his son’s hockey career. He is often seen at Capitals practices and games.
“I think we’d all be better off if everyone was that close to their parents,” McPhee said.
Alex Ovechkin’s failure to win gold for Russia mirrors his own frustrations with the Capitals, who have regularly underperformed in the playoffs in the quest to win their first Stanley Cup. He scored only one goal during the Olympics, but McPhee said other factors — including the structure of the tournament — could be cited.
“For people to blame Ovi for that team’s failure is not proper,” McPhee said. “There are a lot of players that haven’t produced over there.”
McPhee isn’t concerned his star player will return distracted. The Capitals, who have struggled at times this season, are currently out of playoff position.
“He’s an experienced player now, and he’ll deal with it,” McPhee said. “And I expect he’ll be pretty darn good when he gets back here.”