During a recent chat, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis recalled when then-GM George McPhee excitedly told him that they were going to take Alex Ovechkin with the first overall pick in the 2004 draft.
Leonsis was skeptical. There was no social media or YouTube in those days, just grainy DVDs showing shadowy figures skating around dark Russian rinks. Who knew which one was Ovechkin? Who knew if he was the player who would save his franchise?
They were about to find out. The night of the ’04 draft in Raleigh, the Caps hosted a fan event.
“The event was at 6 o’clock. Alex got there at like five of six, and all these fans are coming,” Leonsis recalled. “Alex was like the maître d’ or something. 'Who is this guy?' He’s like shaking everybody’s hand, 'Thank you,' and welcoming them and then I remember there were plates of fresh fruit and he was picking on some and he started eating cantaloupe.”
Apparently they didn’t have a lot of cantaloupe in Russia.
“I think he ate three cantaloupe,” Leonsis said. “There was just something charming, graceful, serious and special. Literally everyone that was introduced to him that day left with, ‘That was different.’ There’s just something different here.”