Ottawa Senators' Enigmatic Alexei Kovalev Closes in on 1,000 Career Points
If the hockey gods are willing, Ottawa Senators' veteran winger Alexei Kovalev should reach another career landmark on Wednesday in Carolina.
After notching an assist against the Flyers on Monday night, Kovalev sits only one point shy of joining Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Mogilny as the only Russians to score 1,000 regular season points in the NHL.
One of the most skilled hockey players in the world and also one of the most puzzling, Kovalev has come a long way since his modest days of skating on icy soccer fields in the city of Togliatti, located 1000 km southeast of Moscow in the former USSR.
As a child of four, he took his first strides in his sister's figure skates, setting in motion perhaps his form known for its speed, agility and finesse.
After overcoming heart problems at the age of eight which made playing hockey impossible, Kovalev excelled, often playing with children three years his senior. At the age of 14, the dedication paid off when the young Alexei was invited by Dynamo Moscow to take part in a program reserved for the best hockey players in the country.
He packed his bags and travelled to Moscow alone, developing independence at an early age as he shared a run-down hotel with fellow teammates.
Kovalev would make Russian history for the first time on June 22, 1991 when he was chosen 15th overall in the NHL Draft by the New York Rangers, becoming the first Russian player to be picked in the first round.
Only eight months later, Kovalev was making history again, this time as part of the Unified hockey team at the 1992 Winter Olympics Games in Albertville. With the Soviet Union crumbling and with many states breaking away from Russia, A Unified Team of Russia and the newly formed countries banded together to win the gold medal against a strong Canadian team in a tight final game.
Adding to his list of accomplishments, Kovalev also won the World Junior Championship in 1992, and was also the first Russian, along with Alexander Karpovtsev, Sergei Nemchinov, and Sergei Zubov to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup when the Rangers won in 1994.
In 2007, he played his 1,000th career game, making him the fourth Russian to accomplish this endeavour.
Two years later, Kovalev was also the first Russian player to be a captain of an All-Star team and went on to become the Most Valuable Player of the 2009 game.
After spending time now with the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, Montreal and Ottawa, Kovalev has amassed 417 goals and 582 assists in 1,246 games and is only one point away from being the third Russian to tally 1,000 NHL career point.
"It's a great achievement, that's all I can say," Kovalev announced recently. "You know, you look back and you get to the NHL at 19 years old and now you're over 1,000 games and getting to 1,000 points. I mean, it's a long journey and a big achievement. I'm definitely proud of myself."
All Senators fans eyes will be on Kovalev Wednesday night to hopefully witness this enigmatic player reach yet another landmark in his long and accomplished hockey career.
Celebration of Life Service
Alexei Kovalev and the rest of the Ottawa Senators will be attending the Celebration of Life service Wednesday morning at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa for Daron Richardson, the 14-year-old daughter of assistant coach Luke Richardson, who died tragically on the weekend.
The Senators had to obtain permission from the NHL to travel to Carolina on the day of the game against the Hurricanes.
Christopher Smith runs senspedia.com, an Ottawa Senators wiki fan site.
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