On Monday, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and hockey icon Wayne Gretzky sat down in their first-ever joint interview in the second episode of Hockey at Home. Hosted by NBC Sports’ Kathryn Tappen, the video interview covered various topics such as Ovechkin’s pursuit of The Great One’s record 894 career goals, their love for the game, and hockey memories including when they first met and Ovechkin receiving Gretzky’s promised game-used stick.
Ovechkin discussed how it was a childhood dream to talk to Gretzky. “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…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.”
Ovechkin commented that the two have a “really good relationship”. “He’s always supported me and it’s a huge honor for me.”
— NHL (@NHL) April 20, 2020
When the two met for the first time for dinner in California back in 2016, Gretzky was “fascinated” with Ovechkin’s drive and desire to win the Cup and bring Lord Stanley to Washington, D.C. The Great One mentioned their conversation did not focus on “individualism” such as goals, skills, or games. Ovechkin asked questions, “What can I do as captain to get our team over the hump? What can I do to contribute to winning the Stanley Cup for the Washington Capitals?”
— NHL (@NHL) April 20, 2020
Gretzky complimented the 34-year-old’s game saying he “can’t help but cheer and root for him every day” and what he’s doing is “tremendous”. He added, “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.’”
The pair discussed Ovechkin’s chase on the all-time goals list, which Gretzky sits atop at 894 goals. The Capitals captain became the eighth member of the NHL’s 700-goal club on February 22 and currently sits two goals shy of his ninth career 50-goal season – which would tie Gretzky (and Mike Bossy) for the most in league history. His pursuit (706) has been on hold since the NHL paused the 2019-20 season on March 12 due to the Coronavirus outbreak. However, Gretzky remains optimistic Ovechkin can reach the record.
“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 with good players,” Gretzky said, “And most importantly, Alex plays hard every single night. And to me, if you don’t play hard every night, those are kind of records you can’t break. And he does that. I think it’s great for hockey.”
One notable topic was when Ovechkin received Gretzky’s game-used stick last fall, which was a promise The Great One made if the Capitals captain won the Stanley Cup.
And he did.
Ovechkin helped lead the Capitals to their first-ever Stanley Cup Championship on June 7, 2018. “We won the Cup and I tell Sergey [Capitals’ Vice President of Communications] I need Wayne’s stick because he promised me,” Ovechkin said. “Finally I get the stick and I was happy like a little kid to have a Christmas gift. It’s in my collection.” The Great Eight has collected nearly 100 hockey sticks and has one impressive collection.
According to Gretzky, he was trying to find the stick he scored goal #808, but could not and it is likely displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He gave Ovechkin the stick from his 807th goal instead.
Both hockey superstars deem winning the Stanley Cup with their respective teams as their greatest memory. “There is something so cool about lifting the Stanley Cup as the captain,” Gretzky said. Ovechkin agreed and added how it was an unforgettable moment to share with his teammates, the organization, and the fans.
Calling Gretzky’s style of play “special”, Ovechkin said, “He was not that physical but he was smarter on the ice— his vision of the game, how he controlled the game, how he made different players better around him.”
“It’s really difficult for a winger to have an impact on an entire team in an entire league,” Gretzky said about Ovechkin’s overall nature of the game. “He generates offense and he generates plays for each and every one of his teammates…I admire him. I love watching him play and I think he’s had a huge impact on our game for the positive.”
You can watch the full episode here.
Additionally, Ovechkin and Gretzky will go head-to-head in The Great One vs. The Great Eight Showcase and compete in NHL 20 on the Capitals Twitch Channel on Wednesday, April 22, at 8 P.M. ET. in a best-of-three format. Here are the latest odds for the match with Ovechkin as the prohibitive favorite.
Fans will have an opportunity to make a charitable contribution during the Twitch live stream to benefit the Edmonton Food Bank and Monumental Sports & Entertainment (MSE) Foundation’s “Feeding the Frontlines” fund, which provides meals to heroes in the medical community in support of COVID-19 relief. Click here to make a donation.
By Della Young
The Great One is rooting for the Great Eight. pic.twitter.com/DVGvLQJRVb
— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) April 20, 2020