The morning before the night he hat-tricked his way to goal number 800 and grew hockey’s immortal duo into a club of three, Alex Ovechkin popped out of Chicago’s United Center bowels to watch the Blackhawks skate. 

As Ovechkin watched his competition warm up his canvas, hockey’s purest shooter sported a Bulls-red hoodie emblazoned on its back with a winking phrase in white all-caps: “WELL I’M NOT MICHAEL JORDAN.”

Thing is, Alex Ovechkin is Michael Jordan.

A singular, special talent. A mercenary in the ring, whose individual drive and addiction to hanging mind-bending numbers has fuelled team success and eventually brought a parade to the sports-crazed city that drafted him. A rewriter of record books. The game he loves looks wildly different — better — since his arrival. (Perhaps, one day, the NHL will rename its Rocket Richard Trophy, awarded to its annual goal king, after Ovechkin the way the NBA just rechristened its MVP award after MJ.)

And much like prime Jordan, Ovechkin prefers to separate his personal politics, as hot and fraught as they are, from his awe-inspiring, age-defying pursuit of giants. Check: Passing Gordie Howe’s 801 goals. And then: Wayne Gretzky’s once-believed-impossible 894.

The other thing is, Alex Ovechkin is not Michael Jordan.

Jordan’s tack of political and social ambiguity was largely driven by economics, famously distilled in the basketball icon’s “Republicans buy sneakers, too” quote. 

We know precisely where Ovechkin’s political allegiances lie. 

How much we choose to think about them or influence our enjoyment of his fantastical athletic feats, however, is of personal prerogative. Some have no issue compartmentalizing art from artist, on ice versus off ice.