Lost in Translation: Alexander Ovechkin Lets His Play Do the Talking

Jennifer JohnsonAnalyst IFebruary 2, 2009

For some of us who grew up in America, we take for granted the regular vernacular that is easily understood between two people engaged in normal conversation.

There are liberties taken when someone is speaking the same language as you are.

The dialogue has its natural flow, and the words float like an abandoned oar, drifting down a calm lake.

Yet the opposite occurs when the language barrier interferes with the true meaning of what one is trying to project.

For instance, I noticed the somewhat awkward on-air interview conducted by Comcast SportsNet Broadcaster, Al Koken with Washington Capitals superstar, Alexander Ovechkin.

It was after the second period of yesterday’s eventual Capitals’ 7-4 triumph over the visiting Ottawa Senators, that Koken cornered “Ovie” to chat about his continued success in the National Hockey League.

Ovechkin had scored his NHL-leading 34th goal of the season, and finished the game with a hat trick. He is now one goal shy of his 200th career tally. Ovechkin can flat out bomb the biscuit, from the point like no one I have ever seen.

His wrist shot is quick, accurate, and deadly.

Most netminders think they are ready for what is coming at them, when Ovechkin winds up to strike, but he more often than not, gets the better of his competition.

So there they were.

Koken focused this three minute jam session on what Alex has learned from the great players of NHL past.

Here’s a taste of the discourse between the two hockey enthusiasts.

Koken:  “Alex, I heard you had lunch with the great Gordy Howe this week.”

           “What was that like, sitting next to someone of his statue?”

Ovechkin:  “Well, eh it twas so amazing, you know.” 
               “Gordy is legend. I want to learn everything from him.”

Ovechkin repeated the word legend at least twice to describe Howe in the shortened interview. His voice is not nearly as commanding, as his “ice” persona permeates. He speaks in a hushed, almost inaudible tone.

I had to turn the volume up a few more notches to understand him.

Alex has developed his own coping mechanisms, as he learns the English phrases,that he is trying to convey to the native speakers.

When a teammate has turned in a solid performance “sic” is the descriptive word, Alex has come to use as part of his everyday speech.

Reading past interviews in the Washington Post suggest Ovechkin has found what words he knows best, and is sticking to that pattern.

He believes in the common English-speaking anecdote, “If it is not broken, don’t fix it."

Koken pressed Alex to divulge a little more of what he and Gordy Howe discussed during their lunch meeting.

Ovechkin is oblivious to the tactics of the media, who are out for that one quote that will sound the best in print, or in this case on television.

Koken: “Did he share stories with you about his experiences, perhaps even give you a few pointers on maintaining a prolonged NHL career?"

Koken was smiling from ear-to-ear, in a sly manner.

Alex was not looking at him, and his body language conveyed discomfort with the interview process.

He was struggling to get out what Koken wanted to hear.

Ovechkin: “I am cool around him.  Not wanting to talk too much.”  
              “Just make sure I listen more than anything.”

Koken giggled like a small child who has been getting into a lot of mischief, and thanked Alex for his time, and sent him on his way.

Clearly it will remain difficult for Ovechkin, and players from other countries, to convey with humor, and light-heartedness the feelings of being a professional American hero.

I, for one, will take this chance to speak on Ovechkin’s behalf, and give my final opinions on the subject.

It is not about what you say, it is about how you play the game.

To watch you celebrate with your teammates is pure poetry in itself.

In the pros, it is a rarity to get a glimpse of a player so excited for another person’s success.

I hope he stays the soft-spoken, goal-scoring maniac his fans love to embrace.

It is never wrong to be who you are.

Keep doing all that you do Alex.

Someday, you will be the legend that some young hockey god will be asked to describe.

How “sic” would that be?


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