'Good for the game': Gretzky wants Ovechkin to break his record originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Alex Ovechkin's quest to pass Wayne Gretzky's all-time NHL goals record continues to be one of the NHL's most compelling storylines. Ahead of Ovechkin's 17th season opener of his career, "The Great One" humbly expressed his hope that Washington's star man will be the one to surpass his mark.
"I think it would be great for the game," Gretzky said on the NHL on TNT broadcast ahead of the Caps' opener against the Rangers.
But fellow analyst Rick Tocchet rightfully pressed the legendary No. 99 on if he actually didn't want Ovechkin to pass his 894-goal mark and was simply playing nice for the cameras.
"Please don't say you want it to happen, though," Tocchet quipped.
"No, I do," Gretzky affirmed. "I think it's great for the game."
"You don't believe that," Tocchet said.
Tocchet, the NHL all-time leader in Gordie Howe hat tricks (when a player scores a goal, notches an assist and gets in a fight in the same game), was clear that if he held the all-time goals record that there would be no way he'd want anyone to break it.
Gretzky, though, doesn't hold the same perspective.
"From my point of view, we talk about hockey players we always talk about what he was and what he brought to the team. My reputation was always, 'He's a passer, he's a playmaker.' So I don't have the reputation of being the greatest goalscorer ever, which is fine by me," Gretzky said.
"So that's why I think if Alex can stay healthy, I think it's great for the game if he breaks the record because he is the greatest goalscorer that we've ever seen - because it's harder to score today than it was 30, 40, 50 years ago."
Of course, Gretzky's 894 goals aren't as remarkable as his 1,963 career assists. In fact, if you took all Gretzky's goals away, he would still have 42 more points than second-placed Jaromir Jagr.
While Gretzky's label for Ovi as "the greatest goalscorer we've ever seen" is high praise, he still did set the bar incredibly high in record books. If Ovechkin is to play out the next five years of his new deal, he'd have to average 33 goals per season to reach the historic milestone many believed to be untouchable when Gretzky retired after the 1998-99 season.
But Gretzky managed to score more than 30 goals just twice the last 10 seasons of his incredible 20-year career. The only time Ovechkin has produced less than 30 goals was this past truncated season, when he was on pace for 44 goals in a standard 82-game season but ended with 24 scores in 45 games.
The office is a big reason why.
"From his point of view, he stands in that area, gets in that no-man's area between the D and the forward and everybody knows what's coming," Gretzky said. "And he's got a rocket of a shot and he never misses the net. And that's why he scores so often."
Though Gretzky remained an unstoppable assist-maker for his linemates, he realized he lost some speed and another key factor in the scoring department during his final few seasons.
"You don't go to those same areas, those dirty areas, to score. I mean my last year I got nine goals. I knew I was pretty much done and that was it for me," Gretzky said.
Gretzky said while he thinks Ovechkin has a good chance to break his record, that belief comes with the condition that Ovi gets off to a great start these next two seasons and remains fully healthy.
"As I teasingly say to people, the first 700 are the easy ones," said Gretzky. "It's the next 150 that are the hard ones."