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Stanley Cup champion Ovechkin could attend the World Cup in Russia

He’s very, very pro-Putin.

Alexander Ovechkin, captain of the Washington Capitals, lifts the Stanley Cup trophy on June 7, 2018.
Alexander Ovechkin, captain of the Washington Capitals, lifts the Stanley Cup trophy on June 7, 2018.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Fresh off of winning the 2018 Stanley Cup, Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin may soon attend the first game of the World Cup in Russia.

“Soon we will contact Ovechkin to invite him to the World Cup opening game,” Alexey Sorokin, the CEO of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Local Organizing Committee, said on Friday.

That’s a big deal for Ovi, as fans affectionately call him. After all, he’s a native Russian and would likely get star treatment when his country takes on Saudi Arabia in the World Cup’s first game on June 14. But as of now, it’s unclear if he’ll attend.

Ovechkin continues to be a somewhat polarizing figure, especially as tensions between Russia and the United States — and allegations of collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Moscow — continue to grow.

Mainly, it’s because the hockey pro is an unabashed supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He’s even gone as far as to kick-start a social movement to back the dictator called “PutinTeam.” Ovechkin has also posted photos of the two of them on the verge of embracing, bro-like, in matching white shirts.

Личные награды и призы – все это здорово, но в хоккее, как и в любом деле, для победы важнее команда. Только команда способна переломить ход игры, сделать невозможное. В последнее время в западной прессе я встречаю сочетание Putin’s team, то есть команда Путина. И знаете, мне очень понравилось это определение. Лично я готов быть частью такой команды. Я никогда не скрывал своего отношения к нашему Президенту, всегда открыто его поддерживая. Я уверен, что нас, поддерживающих Владимира Путина, много! Так давайте объединимся и покажем всем сильную и сплоченную Россию! Сегодня я хочу объявить о том, что создаю общественное движение под названием Putin Team. Быть частью такой команды – для меня гордость, это похоже на ощущение, когда ты надеваешь майку сборной России, зная, что за тебя болеет вся страна. #putinteam

A post shared by Alexander Ovechkin (@aleksandrovechkinofficial) on

Having Ovechkin at the game would also be a big deal for, well, Russia. He remains one of the country’s most successful and recognizable athletes. If Ovechkin attends — and possibly brings the Stanley Cup trophy with him — it could serve as a point of national pride for the country during the World Cup.

So it’s possible that next week, there will be more images of Ovechkin getting up close and personal with Putin. But whether or not the hockey star attends the games, he will still remain one of the few beloved links between Washington and Moscow.

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