ESPN has run hundreds of versions of its popular “This is SportsCenter” commercials over the years. But the ad starring Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin and former teammate Semyon Varlamov placed fifth overall in fan voting this week out of more than 400 dating to the mid-1990s.
The “Russian spy” concept won wide support on ESPN’s SportsCenter Facebook page, where the fan voting was conducted. On Thursday night the network aired a Top 50 program, hosted by actor Jason Sudeikis, showing its most popular “This is SportsCenter” commercials.
SportsCenter anchor Steve Levy, who starred in the commercial with Ovechkin and Varlamov, gave some behind-the-scenes information in an interview during the Top 50 show. According to Levy, ESPN built a replica of its filing room outside on its company basketball court. It also needed a crane to lift Ovechkin through the ceiling as he makes his escape at the end of the commercial, which originally aired in January, 2011. Those touches made it the most expensive “This is SportsCenter” ad ever filmed.
Varlamov was traded to Colorado after the 2010-11 season. Ovechkin, of course, just won his third Hart Trophy as NHL most valuable player.