ARLINGTON, Va. — On July 1, 2018, Nic Dowd signed a three-year contract to play for the Washington Capitals. When the deal was finalized, his wife, Paige, mentioned who one of his new teammates would be.
"Paige said the same thing when we signed, 'Oh, we get to play with Ovie,'" Dowd said.
There are certain players in the NHL that even non-hockey fans are aware of. Alex Ovechkin, the 34-year-old left wing from Moscow, is one of them. Earlier this season, Ovechkin became the eighth player in the NHL to score more than 700 goals in a career.
"I would say he's the biggest name in the NHL, worldwide," said Dowd, as he started to discuss what it is like to have him as a teammate. "It's not boring. I think he's getting better as he gets older and that's incredible. He's got to be one of the only people like that. He's a superstar and he's got an aura around him. I don't know how to explain it."
When play was stopped because of the coronavirus pandemic, Ovechkin was tied for the league lead in goals (48) with David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins. It is the third straight season that Ovechkin has led or been tied for the league lead in goals and the ninth time in his 15-year career.
Being a three-time league MVP does not come without some down sides, though. There are a lot of media demands, fan demands and people will look for about anything that he does wrong to point it out.
"For him dealing with such scrutiny all the time and with his responsibilities, he handles it professionally," Dowd said. "He could be a jerk, quite honestly. But that he isn't attests to the type of person that he is."
The Capitals are also loaded with other players who have become big names in the NHL: Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, Braden Holtby, Ilya Kovalchuk and T.J. Oshie. Not surprisingly, Washington, which won the 2018 Stanley Cup, is leading the Metropolitan Division with a 41-20-8 record.
"This is the best hockey team that I've been on so far," said Dowd, who has also played with the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks in his four full seasons in the NHL. "It is full of great guys and guys signed to long-term contracts, so you kind of know what you're getting."
Reunited with Jensen
Then on Feb. 22, 2019, Dowd got reunited with an old friend. That was when the Capitals traded for defenseman Nick Jensen. Dowd and Jensen were not only teammates for three seasons at St. Cloud State, but they also were roommates in college.
Paige actually found out before Nic did that Jensen would be joining the Capitals.
"It was pretty crazy and we read rumors about it and everyone said it might happen," Paige said. "I said that I just don't see it actually happening. (Nick's wife) Jenner texted me saying, 'Hi teammate.' I was at Target and I called Nic right away."
"I was on the ice and we were in Buffalo and one of our video guys came up to me and said, 'We've traded for one of your college roommates,'" Dowd said. "It's kind of a surreal feeling because the odds of that happening are so small. To make it to the NHL, to both play in the NHL at the same time and to be both on the same team with extended contracts ... it's great."
Jensen was the 2013 WCHA Defenseman of the Year after helping lead the Huskies to their first WCHA regular season title and first trip to the Frozen Four before signing with the Detroit Red Wings.
Oh, and then there's this: This is the second college roommate of Dowd's that he has been a teammate of in the NHL. Defenseman Kevin Gravel and Dowd were teammates for 3 1/2 season in the Kings organization.
"One of the coolest things is that I can say that two of my college roommates have played in the NHL and I played with both of them," he said. "That's so rare."
Like everyone, Dowd is trying to patiently wait for the NHL season to get going again. He said he is working out three times a week to try and stay in shape, but it is difficult when there is no ice time available.
"We do have some dumbbells and a stationary bike and I get in a decent workout in three days a week," he said. "I sent my trainer what (equipment) I have available and he made workouts for me.
"I haven't skated in a month and a week," Dowd said last week. "The biggest thing is that working out, I get a mental break. I get to get out of the house a little bit and break a sweat."
Dowd said that he, Paige and their 4-month-old son, Louie, will be moving back to their home in Minneapolis in the first week of May. And you'll never guess who lives within a mile of the Dowds in Minnesota — the Gravels and Jensens.