By Neil Becker
Heading into the new season, I've finally come to accept that not even father time can prevent Washington Capitals captain and future hall of famer Alex Ovechkin from surpassing current leader Wayne Gretzky for most goals in a career.
With all due respect to Ovechkin, who obviously ranks as one of the greatest players ever, I have to admit that growing up as a die-hard Gretzky fan, I never wanted to believe that any of his 61 records upon retirement, which included 894 career goals, could ever be broken.
The old saying in sports is that records are made to be broken, and Ovechkin, who will be 38 years old when the season begins, sits second all-time with 822 career goals. This puts him on the brink of breaking Gretzky's all-time career goal scoring record in the next couple of years, which was once looked upon as being unbreakable.
Ovechkin, affectionately known as "The Great 8," has time on his side as he signed back in July 2021 a five-year $47.5 million extension. Father time has definitely yet to catch up to Ovechkin, who, despite not being in his prime anymore, still managed to produce a more than respectable 42 goals and 75 points last year. Obviously, Ovechkin's pursuit of the Great One's career goal-scoring record will be Washington's main storyline for the next few seasons and keep them from starting any kind of roster rebuild.
Not surprisingly, Gretzky's been very encouraging and his gracious self when talk has turned to Ovechkin's career goals scoring chase. Back in January 2023, prior to the 2023 Discover Winter Classic, Gretzky said, "I think we're past the point of if he's going to do it. We said a year ago that it's a matter of when he's going to do it. So, it's great for the game. It's a positive and I think that it couldn't happen to a better person. He's been great for our sport."
As mentioned earlier, Gretzky, upon retirement, had an astonishing 61 records. More than 20 years after playing his final game, "The Great One" is still the proud owner of 39 records. In a 20 year highlight-filled career which saw Gretzky play for the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers, he totalled a league-leading 1,963 assists along with 2,857 points in 1,487 games. His resume includes such achievements as nine Hart Trophies, five Lady Byng Trophies, two Conn Smythe Trophies and, of course, the four Stanley Cups.
Among his current records, it's safe to say that most goals in a season (92), most assists in a career (1,962), along with most points in a career (2,856) and most points in a season (215) will never be broken. Saying that, I have to keep in mind that I also expressed my belief, which I held until recently, that Ovechkin would never break Gretzky's record for goals.
Over the past few years, Gretzky has sung the praises of Ovechkin and believes what's happening with the record pursuit will only be good for hockey. "I don't think it's a question of if anymore. It's a question of when,: Gretzky said. "And it's great for the game. You know what? Alex is a wonderful young man. We're good friends, and, hey, listen if he breaks it, I hope I'm there to shake his hand."
Having signed that long-term contract and having the "Great One" rooting him on, it seems like the only thing that could stop Ovechkin from the record is injury.
Growing up, I have so many great memories of Gretzky dominating games, and back then, I would proudly wear my Gretzky Oilers shirt to school. I never would have believed that his career goal scoring record would be broken, but it looks like Ovechkin is going to do it, and despite passing my idol for the top spot, I'll still be one of those fans rooting him on.