Wayne Gretzky and Alex Ovechkin met Kathryn Tappen for an interview that covered a wide variety of topics. “Home Hockey: Gretzky and Ovi” will be broadcast in its entirety on Monday, April 20 at 5 p.m. AND on Sportsnet.
Alex Ovechkin and Wayne Gretzky should be forever linked in hockey history.
One is the top scorer of all time, and the other is getting closer to that mark. While Gretzky has 894 retired goals, Ovechkin has crossed the 700 goal mark this season, is by far the top scorer of his generation and is now 188 behind Gretzky.
It’s still a high number, of course, but Ovechkin will turn 35 at the start of next season and show no signs of slowing down. Before the NHL suspended its season, Ovechkin was on track for its second consecutive 50-goal campaign. He has a legitimate chance of achieving it in a few years, and Gretzky, for his part, hopes he will.
Each is related to the other and both have a special place in the history of hockey, even if Ovechkin continues to write his story. But what do the two respect each other the most as players?
Which two NHL players, past or present, would you like to sit next to in a locker room? For many, it would be these two.
– Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 19, 2020
“I think his vision of the game. I think how he controlled the game,” said Ovechkin about what he admired most while watching Gretzky at its peak. “How he improves the different players around him. It’s a special talent. I think the guys who played with him are lucky because they get a lot of points, a lot of Cups, and being with him on a team is a great story when you retire.
“You are going to tell your grandchild,” You know what? I played with Wayne Gretzky and he passed the puck to me. ” It’s great. “
Of course, while Ovechkin is chasing one of Gretzky’s records, the No. 99 will still hold many more by the time Ovechkin retires. No one, for example, is breaking all-time records or assists anytime soon, and it’s hard to imagine even Ovechkin scoring 50 goals in 39 games.
The two are very different types of players from entirely different eras. While Ovechkin’s strength lies in his score and how he can physically engage his opponents with his huge 6 foot 3 inch and 236 pound frame, Gretzky played during a period of higher score in NHL history and relied on his creativity and vision.
“I think his style of play was not that physical, but he was smart on the ice,” said Ovechkin. “You can see its strengths. Whenever he had the puck, something would happen. It’s great to watch. It’s fun to watch. “
Gretzky, of course, is still watching Ovechkin play intently. He has seen a ton of changes in the way the game is played since his retirement in 1999, not only because of the new rules, but also because of the number of taller, faster and fitter players in the league.
And sometimes an 82-game NHL season can be difficult, but what Gretzky most respects about Ovechkin is the way he puts his passion for hockey on his sleeve.
“You can’t hide his love for the game,” said Gretzky. “I compare that to Gordie Howe, Mark Messier. Just pure joy and love. Every time he gets on the ice, you can see him smile. “
Plus, Gretzky sees Ovechkin something you can only get from really special players. It is different in the way it achieves its greatness. No one can do what Ovechkin does, and after 15 years in the NHL, the impact he has had on the league is undeniable.
Gretzky had a few examples of how Ovechkin fits into this unique group.
“It’s really hard for a winger to have an impact on an entire team and a league,” said Gretzky. “It’s a little bit more difficult than being a center player. And there are only a few guys in hockey history – Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Mike Bossy, Guy Lafleur – these guys, they changed the game.
“I remember five years ago people said to me,” Do you think Alex Ovechkin should have two minutes on the power play, “and I remember saying,” Sure! It should be there during the entire power play for each power play. ” That’s what he does. He generates offense and generates games for each of his teammates. I said this to my son the other day: they know exactly where he’s going to be, they know exactly what he’s going to do and he always scores 60 goals a year.
” It is special. I admire him. I love watching him play and I think he has had a huge positive impact on our game. “
When asked Gretzky how his game would have changed if he shared a line with Ovechkin at its peak, number 99 said his approach would not have changed, but “I would have a lot more assists.” “
Scary thought, since Gretzky already has more assists than any other player has ever produced points.
The conversation with the two players has ventured into all kinds of places, including:
• What advice did Gretzky give Ovechkin in pursuit of goal # 700
• What they talked about the first time they met over dinner a few years ago
• How it feels to be a father at different stages
• What it was like to lift the Stanley Cup for the first time
• Which two players, past or present, they would like to sit next to in a locker room
Whenever the Great and the Big Eight meet, it is wise to be careful. And lucky for hockey fans that two big guys of all time will have two dates together next week.
In addition to this interview, which aired on Monday, Gretzky and Ovechkin will face off in a streak of best of 3 on EA Sports’ NHL 20 on Wednesday night. This will be broadcast on the Capitals Twitch stream on April 22 at 8 p.m. ET and fans will be encouraged to donate to charity COVID-19.