Everywhere they go it's the same thing. People stare and ask, "Are you with the Capitals? Is Alex here?" Always, it's about Ovechkin. Even for players such as Mike Green, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom, three special talents in their own right, when the Great 8 shows up, they're the Washington Whatevers - props. Like Elvis Presley's drummer or The Rolling Stones' opening act.
You'd think it would get tiring, always being the second and third violin in Ovie's orchestra. But the Capitals insist that's not the case. They love their teammate; they howl with glee when they turn on the television and see his talking head inside a school locker saying, "Soon the championship will be ours, all ours."
What's not to like about that?
And yet life with a megastar is not all laughs and giggles. Years ago on Saturday Night Live, Chico Escuela discussed his tell-all book, Bad Stuff 'Bout the Mets. He revealed the other side of New York pitching ace Tom Seaver, who was loved by all yet capable of dark deeds. According to Escuela, Seaver "always took two parking spots" when he parked his car and once "borrowed Chico's soap and never gave it back."
It was scathing stuff.
With Escuela's book in mind, several Capitals were asked to speak freely and reveal the down side of being trapped in Ovechkin's orbit. They did so providing they be identified and quoted on the record.
This is Matt Bradley's 10th season in the NHL. Most people have already forgotten he was a fourth-round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 1996. The Caps' grinding winger loves watching Ovechkin play but feels oh so differently when asked to get his teammate's autograph.
"When anyone calls me for a jersey they want Ovie to sign it," Bradley said.
"You mean when fans call you?" he is asked.
"No, my family and friends. I'm always asking him for his autograph."
Then there's having to sit next to Ovechkin in the Capitals' dressing room, at home or on the road. The media constantly surrounds Ovechkin before and after games, sometimes four or five deep, which makes it impossible for the player sitting next to Ovie to reach his locker. Guys have to stand around in their stinking hockey gear until the last question is asked and Ovechkin hits the showers, possibly looking to borrow someone else's soap.
"That can be tough," acknowledged defenceman Tyler Sloan.
What about rooming with him in hotels?
"[Fans]call every room to find out where he is," Bradley said.
"There are so many autograph seekers we always send him out first," Sloan added.
Worse than all that is the question people pose, right after, "Is Alex here?" It's a query Brooks Laich has heard for six seasons now, over and over and over.
"We're always asked, 'What's he really like?'" said Laich, the former sixth-round draft pick of the Ottawa Senators in 2001.
So? What's he really like?
"He's not a bad basketball player. He's a pretty good three-point shooter," Laich answered. "Golf. He had that hole in one. But his swing is not pretty. Paintball. He's a loose cannon."
Laich admitted, like Bradley, he is always asked by family and friends to get Ovechkin's autograph. Six of Laich's family members and buddies recently drove from Regina to Saint Paul, Minn., to see the Capitals play the Wild. Ovechkin had a photo taken with each one of them, which reminds Bradley of one more thing.
"When I'm done I can always say I played with Ovechkin. My kids probably won't believe me," he said. "I'll have to get a picture taken with him."
Such is the cost of living in Ovie's world.