Wayne Gretzky and Alex Ovechkin recently spoke in a video conference with NBC Sports’ Kathryn Tappen. The interview will be aired on NBCSN at 5 PM this afternoon.
During the chat, Ovechkin revealed that Gretzky finally did get him that game-used stick that he was promised. The Great One also spoke about The Great 8’s chances of potentially breaking his NHL goals record of 894.
— NHL (@NHL) April 19, 2020
“I can’t help but cheer and root for him every day. I watch a lot of his games. I probably watch almost every game he plays,” Gretzky said. “I hope for them to score goals. I pull for him to score goals. I think it’s great for the game. I think what he’s doing is tremendous. I remember when I was breaking Gordie Howe’s record, my dad said to me at one point in time, ‘Your record is going to be broken one day and I hope you have as much class and dignity as Gordie Howe has had with you breaking his record.’
“I hope I do. I hope I’m the first guy to be able to shake his hand when he does break my record. I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind that he has a great chance to do that. He plays on a good team. He plays with good players. And most importantly, Alex plays hard every single night. To me, if you don’t play hard every single night, those are records you can’t break.”
While Gretzky remains very optimistic, Ovechkin doesn’t “believe it’s possible” to catch the six-time Stanley Cup champion despite trailing The Great One by 188 goals at age 34. Ovechkin has defied the aging curve, scoring 48 or more goals in six of his last seven seasons.
Regardless, Gretzky seems prepared to be as big a cheerleader for Ovi as Gordie Howe, his idol, was for him during his playing career. While Howe wasn’t there when Gretzky broke his goals record of 801 on March 23, 1994, Mr. Hockey was in attendance when a 28-year-old Gretzky broke his points record of 1,850 on October 15, 1989 in Edmonton.
Howe joined Gretzky for an on-ice celebration and gave him a hug.
“I think I’m as excited as Wayne’s family,” Howe said in his speech. “I think the boys sitting on the Edmonton bench are as excited about Wayne as the rest of us. I’d like to say in all honesty I’ve been looking forward to this day. I’ve been spending the last 10 days with Wayne and I thought I knew him before, but he’s just grown an inch taller than he was in my mind. A super young man, a great hockey player who shares in everything he does. It’s really nice for me to be sharing those honors with Wayne. Congratulations.”
During Gretzky’s conversation with Ovechkin, he also spoke about how the Capitals’ captain has changed the philosophy of the game.
— NHL (@NHL) April 19, 2020
“It’s really difficult for a winger to have an impact on an entire team in an entire league,” Gretzky said. “It’s a little bit tougher than a centerman. There’s only been a few guys in hockey history, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Mike Bossy, Guy Lafleur, those guys they changed the game. I could remember five years ago, people saying to me, ‘Do you think Alex Ovechkin should be (out there for) two minutes on the power play?’ I remember saying, ‘Of course, he should. He should be out there the whole power play every power play.’ And that’s what he does.
“He generates offense and he generates plays for each and every one of his teammates. I said this to my son the other day. I said, ‘They know exactly where he’s going to be. They know exactly what he’s going to do. And he still scores 60 goals a year. That’s special.’
Gretzky added, “I admire him. I love watching him play and I think he’s had a huge impact on our game for the positive.”
Off the ice, the two hockey legends are well-documented friends and had dinner in Malibu together in 2016.
— NHL (@NHL) April 20, 2020
“Of course you want to meet The Great One and talk to him, shake his hands. But when Sergey (the Capitals PR guy) told me we have opportunity to have dinner with Wayne and his family, it was a special moment. I told Sergey, ‘Yeah for sure. We do it.’
“It was great. I asked him questions. As a kid you always dreamed, you always want to know how it was back then when he played. What’s the difference between this hockey and hockey back then. It’s great. Me and my wife meets his family and always in shock how good they are as a persons. It was a big honor for us. When you’re a little kid, you just want to shake the hands. Even right now, I’m talking to Wayne on the phone and it’s a huge privilege.”
“Congratulations on joining the 700 Club,” Gretzky said. “You’ve had an outstanding career. You’ve scored 700 goals. You’ve won the Stanley Cup. And you’ve meant a lot to the game hockey – not only in Washington but throughout North America and Russia. I’ll be there saying the same thing when you get to 800.”
Headline photo courtesy of NHL/NBCSN
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