“I sincerely believe that the records were created in order to update them,” Gretzky said in an interview with NHL.com on Friday. “I am very proud of what I have achieved. To do what I did is very difficult. And it’s very difficult to do, what he is showing now. But, in my opinion, he has a really real chance to catch up with me. Two things are needed: to remain healthy and to be a born goalie. He completely surrenders to the game and remains healthy. And you also need to play in a good team – and he plays in a good team. I succeeded because I played with good teams “He’s also playing with good partners, and this objectively helps.”
After recording back-to-back hat-tricks in the Capitals’ last two games before their bye-week, Ovechkin is currently sitting 202 goals behind Gretzky’s 894 and eight shy of the 700-goal milestone. He is tied with Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time at the moment and could finish this season in seventh as he is only 16 behind Mike Gartner, who occupies that spot on the rankings. The Capitals have 33 games left in the regular season but Ovechkin will miss at least one of them, the team’s first game back from the All-Star Break at the Montreal Canadiens on Monday due to suspension for skipping the All-Star festivities.
“I think it would benefit hockey,” Gretzky said. “Such positive things have a great effect on the game. I jokingly told Sergey (Kocharov, vice president of CapitalsPR) … I expressed hope that the owner of Capitals, Ted Leonsis, understands that when I was catching up with Gord[ie Howe, who’s second behind Gretzky with 801 career goals], he and his wife flew on a club plane. I hope that I will be invited to the team’s plane because I would really like to be directly involved.”
Gretzky promised Ovechkin, who has been collecting sticks from NHL legends and players throughout his career, one of his sticks if he broke his record.
“We knew who he was from the very first day he appeared in the league,” Gretzky said. “He was always and remains a hardworking guy who loves to score goals. Everyone loves to score goals. But I remember two or three people who did it’s stronger than the rest: Brett Hull, Mike Bossy and Luke Robitaille. The same fire burns inside [Ovechkin]. He lives near the goal and just loves to score. ”
Something to keep in mind is that Gretzky played for four teams (Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers) during his NHL career. If Ovechkin were to break his record, he would almost certainly do it as a Capital. While his contract expires at the end of the 2020-21 season, Ovechkin has stated that he will only play for the Capitals but he needs to see how his health is before signing an extension.
“Yesterday, I spoke with the children at school and said: ‘[Ovechkin] is so good because he has what Brett Hall and Mike Bossy had. He doesn’t miss the target,'” said Gretzky. “He creates a chance for himself to score constantly. What he does is really amazing for the game, for Capitals and his native country of Russia. It’s just wonderful.”
By Harrison Brown