Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin will receive the high honor of being the first Russian torchbearer during a ceremony in Greece on Sunday leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
ESPN broke the news and passed along comments from Ovechkin about getting the opportunity to start the torch's Russian journey, which will eventually reach every region in the country:
"I'm extremely humbled and honored to be the first Russian to carry the Olympic torch," said Ovechkin. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and something I will never forget."
The torch will travel through all 83 Russian regions.
Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis called it a "huge honor" for Ovechkin.
The talented winger is expected to leave for Greece after Washington's preseason game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night. He will then return from the ceremony in time for the team's season opener against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks next week.
Ovechkin is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the world and will face a lot of pressure during the Olympics as he looks to guide the Russian hockey team to a gold medal. The team failed to medal at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
That's something he doesn't have to worry about for a couple more months. For now, he gets to enjoy something few other athletes have experienced by getting to serve as the initial torchbearer for the next host nation.
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As his comments illustrate, that rare opportunity isn't lost on him. And the timing is perfect: He will be able to make the round trip without missing the any regular-season action, as the Capitals look to contend for a title in the new Metropolitan Division.
Ovechkin scored 56 points in 48 games during last season's lockout-shortened campaign. For his career, he's averaging well over a point per game with 735 points in 601 games. He's also scored at least 30 goals in each of his eight NHL seasons.
The elite production has turned him into an international sensation and put him in this position to get the journey to the Sochi Olympics started in earnest over the weekend.