US President Donald Trump has heaped praise on Russian NHL star Alex Ovechkin, as the Washington Capitals’ captain joined his teammates and league bosses on a much-anticipated visit to the White House on Monday.
Trump welcomed the first-time and reigning Stanley Cup winners to the Oval Office, where the team was led by Ovechkin, who seemed never to take his hand off the coveted trophy while standing by Trump’s side.
Congratulating the team on their maiden title and on an impressive performance throughout the last season, Trump singled out Ovechkin, who became the playoff MVP.
“And this guy. I have no choice but to be his fan, because he is something special. Look at his hands. A special guy. A special athlete, player, they all are,” Trump said.
Going off-script, Trump asked where his daughter Ivanka was, who he said was a “tremendous fan.” As they celebrated the victory in Washington last year, Ovechkin and his fellow Caps stumbled into the president’s daughter and took a photo with her.
“Alexander the Great, they call him, has spent his entire 13-year NHL career with Washington Capitals and his hard work and loyalty has paid off last season. He outscored every player in the league with 64 goals,” Trump said, in praise of the Russian-born great.
Trump said he believes the Caps, who are currently in first place in the Metropolitan division, have a fairly good chance of bringing it home for a second time in a row.
“Thousands of adoring fans greeted you. They were all over the place. And I have a feeling you’re going to be doing it again. You’re champions. You have a champion’s heart,” he said.
As he took the floor from Trump, a smartly-dressed Ovechkin promised to deliver, saying that it was a “huge honor” for him and his teammates to be welcome in the White House and to meet Trump in person.
“We’re going to try to win it again. We have the same team, experienced team, very good group of guys and we’re going to try to do it again.”
As the official part of the ceremony ended and camera shutters clicked, Ovechkin and Trump had a brief chit-chat off the mic. It’s unclear what the two were talking about or whether the Russian-born hockey star got to raise the issue of Russia-US relations, having said before that he would.
“I would chat for a while, take a photo with the president and ask when the relationship with Russia is going to improve,” Ovechkin said back in February of the anticipated visit.
Nevertheless, the photo-op and, perhaps, the timing of the meeting or the lavish praise Trump extended to the Washington Capitals’ captain gave rise to a torrent of collusion jokes.
Wow, Alex Ovechkin (a Russian) is visiting Trump today?? At the White House in front of everyone??
So much collusion
— Last Burning Man (@burning_last) March 25, 2019
Ovechkin & Trump even wearing matching suit & ties. JFC just hang the Russian flag from the White House balcony already.
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) March 25, 2019
Ovechkin, who set up a ‘Putin Team’ movement in the run-up to the presidential elections in Russia last year, has recently said he has been staying “away from politics.”
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