Alex Ovechkin doesn’t “think it’s possible” to break Wayne Gretzky’s goal record, but The Great One himself thinks Ovi can.
Speaking to Sportsnet’s Gene Principe after Ovechkin scored his 700th goal, Gretzky expressed his happiness that the Russian machine continues to close on what was once considered an insurmountable goal total.
“I think that he has got a legitimate chance,” Gretzky said. “I think that it is great for hockey. I was teasing my kids the other day, I said the funny thing about it is, if you talk to hockey people, nobody would actually say, ‘Well, Wayne Gretzky was a good goal scorer.’ They always put me in, he’s a passer, he’s a playmaker. This is giving me a little bit of attention that I am not used to.
Gretzky added that he had been texting the Russian machine during his long goal drought after scoring his 698th goal, telling him he’d hit 700 “[b]efore you know it.”
"If he breaks my record, I'll be the first guy there to shake his hand." @WayneGretzky speaks to @GenePrincipe about @ovi8 reaching 700 @NHL goals and if Ovechkin can break his all-time goals record. pic.twitter.com/h8LG6kfMoU
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 24, 2020
Gretzky’s full conversation with Principe follows below.
Something that has been very exciting is that Alex Ovechkin wants to get to 700. He has achieved that. I was very interested in a social media tweet that came from your account. Was that just a nice way to welcome him into a very exclusive club?
— Wayne Gretzky (@WayneGretzky) February 23, 2020
Wayne Gretzky: “Yeah. I always teased Brett Hull, like, if you get to 800, it’s a real exclusive club (Gretzky and Gordie Howe) So, that was my way of getting even. You know what, I texted him the other day
“Alex and I are pretty good friends. He was at 698 and he went a few games without scoring and I know that feeling. Everyone is watching you, there is more media attention, and you are going into a city where you are used to 8 or 9 media people and all of a sudden there is 20, 25 people there. It becomes a little bit of a toll on an individual. I texted him at 698 and I said, just relax. Before you know it you will be at 700. So when he got to 700, it was a simple, I know you are going to get to 800 real quick.
“I think it’s wonderful for the game, what he is doing. I compare him to only two players that I know, Gordie Howe and Mark Messier to how strong he is, how hard he played, and what he did for the communities, the cities, the league. And for Alex, what he has done for the game in Russia. He has meant so much for that country but he has meant so much for our game also. If he breaks my record, I will be the first guy to stand there and shake his hand. I think it is great for our sport. I am proud of what I have accomplished. I know what I did was really hard, but I think it will only be positive for the game if he can break the record.”
I know this might be hard to answer because you’re trying to predict the future but do you think he can? Will it be due specifically to his ability to stay healthy that might allow him to achieve 895 6 or 900?
Wayne Gretzky: “I have said a few times, the things you got to have, in my estimation, you got to play for a good team first. And he plays on a good team. And he plays with a centerman that gets him the puck. Secondly, you got to stay healthy, and he stays healthy. And you got to love to play. Alex loves to play and loves to score. He competes hard every night. He likes to win as much as he likes to score and it’s a big, big factor.
“I think that he has got a legitimate chance. I think that it is great for hockey. I was teasing my kids the other day, I said the funny thing about it is, if you talk to hockey people, nobody would actually say, ‘Well, Wayne Gretzky was a good goal scorer.’ They always put me in, he’s a passer, he’s a playmaker. This is giving me a little bit of attention that I am not used to.
“I think it’s great, and if he does get there, and if he does break my record, I said I would be the first guy there to shake his hand. I remember when Gordie was following me around and I was breaking his record, I said to my Dad one night, I said, ‘you know in some ways I feel kind of bad for Gordie Howe.’ And my dad said, you know what, somebody is going to break your record. And when he does, make sure you are as much a gentleman to him as Gordie Howe is to you. You smile, you shake his hand, and you are proud of what you accomplished. It’s better for the game. That is what I always think of. I always think of Gordie Howe and what my dad told me.”
Headline photo courtesy of Sportsnet
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