- The Washington Times - Friday, June 23, 2006

Washington Capitals Alex Ovechkin and Olie Kolzig took time out from their summer vacations to drop by the Centre for Performing Arts in Vancouver last night and pick up some NHL hardware.

The 20-year-old Ovechkin won the Calder Trophy, awarded annually to the league’s top rookie, while Kolzig received the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, awarded for on- and off-ice leadership and significant community involvement.

It is the first time Washington players have won either award, presented as part of the NHL awards ceremony.

“Being sick and being a kid shouldn’t go hand-in-hand,” Kolzig said yesterday. “So we try to see if we can make a difference.”

The 36-year-old goalie, newly clean-shaven, has been deeply involved in children’s charities since he arrived in Washington full-time in 1996. He has been especially active in raising funds for Children’s Hospital and lately has devoted a considerable amount of time to a group he founded, Athletes Against Autism. His 5-year-old son, Carson, has the disease.

“My first few years in Washington we were an older team and most of the guys had a lot of kids,” Kolzig said. “Every time I went to someone’s house I just bonded with the kids so for me it was easy getting involved in children’s charities.

“When we made our annual trip to Children’s Hospital and saw the courage those kids showed despite what they were going through, it really hits you. Then, having a special-needs child myself, that made it real easy to stay with it.”

Kolzig said he still has not fully come to grips with the sudden passing of his 64-year-old father, who died at his home on Vancouver Island two days before the season ended. He gave much credit to his parents for teaching him how to act.

“You go out and do this stuff and you don’t expect to get an award for it,” Kolzig said. “I’ve always been a big believer in giving back to the community. As athletes we’re very fortunate to be in the position we’re in, getting paid good money, getting treated pretty well. It’s very important for us to give back because we can have an impact.”

Kolzig signed a two-year contract extension before the season ended. His award last night was presented by brothers Geoff and Russ Courtnall, former players and Geoff a former Capital.

Ovechkin may have had the line of the night when he was interviewed before the show by CBC-TV announcers. They asked him whether his tuxedo was owned or rented and the 20-year-old replied: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The left wing took special pains to thank his parents, both former star athletes in Russia, his infectious broad grin spreading from ear to ear.

Ovechkin had 52 goals and 106 points in his freshman year and was a lightning rod throughout the league. He had two goals in his first game and was a force to be dealt with every night thereafter.

“It was a tremendous season for me,” he said. “This year was unbelievable for me and I hope next season will be the same and the team goes to the playoffs.”

Ovechkin was also named to the NHL’s first all-star team, the first rookie so honored since 1990-91 and the first Caps forward ever to earn that laurel. He also was named to the all-rookie team and was one of three finalists for the Lester B. Pearson Award, the league MVP as voted by players, but fell short when the trophy went to Jaromir Jagr, a former Cap.

Other winners last night included Joe Thornton of San Jose (Hart Trophy as MVP); Miikka Kiprusoff of Calgary (Vezina Trophy as top goaltender); Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit (Norris Trophy as top defenseman); Rod Brind’Amour of Carolina (Selke Trophy as top defensive forward); and Lindy Ruff of Buffalo (Jack Adams Award as top coach).

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