Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin started his 2022-23 season with 780 career goals. That total leaves him just 115 tallies shy of overtaking Wayne Gretzky for first all-time in NHL history.
Before the Caps’ Home Opener against the Boston Bruins, team owner Ted Leonsis gave an interview on NBC Sports Washington about Ovi’s chase of the record.
Ted said that not only does Gretzky welcome the challenge but he also wants to travel to games with the Capitals whenever The Great Eight gets close to taking down his once-thought-to-be untouchable 894 career goal total.
“He’s really been a godsend for us and just a great, great ambassador for the game,” Leonsis said of Gretzky to NBCWSH. “No one is resentful that he could pass Gordie Howe. Wayne Gretzky calls me all the time and says, ‘Alex is going to pass me. I want to be with the team when that happens.’ He’s going to travel with the team and Alex. What does that say about the integrity of the guy and also the way the franchise has moved up the respect echelon in the entire league?”
Gretzky echoed those exact sentiments on Wednesday during TNT’s pregame show. The Great One said it was a matter of “when not if” his goals record is broken by Ovechkin.
This isn’t the first time that Gretzky has talked about wanting to make sure he is in the building for Ovechkin — just like Gordie Howe was for him when he assumed the NHL’s all-time points record.
“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,” Gretzky said in 2020. “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.”
Ovechkin and Gretzky have formed a bit of a friendship over the years with Ovi and his wife Nastya even meeting Wayne and his wife Janet for dinner during one of the Capitals’ West Coast trips. The two superstars have also played video games with each other.
“Alex and I are pretty good friends,” Gretzky added then. “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.”
Headline photo: @aleksandrovechkinofficial/Instagram
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