- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 20, 2022

The boo birds have been out for Alex Ovechkin, and on Friday he did his part to silence them.

With the Capitals playing on the road in Carolina, Hurricanes fans rained down boos at PNC Arena when Ovechkin carried the puck in preparation for his penalty shootout attempt. 

Ovechkin buried home the game-winning score to extend the Capitals’ point streak to eight games. After the goal, he celebrated by cupping his hand behind his ear — the “I can’t hear you” gesture — to encourage the fans to boo louder. 

“Yeah, the atmosphere was tremendous,” Ovechkin told NBC Sports Washington’s Joe Beninati after the game. “Both sides were great tonight. I had fun. It was nice to do that.” 

The boos aren’t new. Ovechkin, one of the best players in the NHL for about 15 years, is sometimes booed by opposing fans, especially rival ones.

But in recent weeks, since Russia invaded Ukraine, some fans have ratcheted up the verbal displeasure for the 36-year-old Russian star. During a recent road trip in Western Canada — home to more than 1 million people of Ukrainian heritage — Ovechkin was consistently booed by Calgary Flames fans. 

Ovechkin has received backlash and lost sponsors in recent weeks for his past support of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2017, Ovechkin campaigned for Putin on social media, and his profile picture still remains one of him posing with the Russian leader — a choice Ovechkin reportedly made after counsel from advisors. His family, including his wife, children and parents, are all living in Russia right now. 

One day after Putin ordered strikes on Ukraine, Ovechkin answered questions at a press conference, during which he said: “Please, no more war.” But he didn’t condemn Putin, dodging a question about whether he still supported the Russian president.

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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