How Ovechkin, Backstrom stack up among DC’s longest-tenured duos

Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have reached the point of their historic careers where they seem to break some kind of record or benchmark every time they take the ice. That will be the case once again Tuesday when the duo will play its 1,000th game together.

The millennium mark is rare air for sports tandems. The NHL has only seen it done a handful of times, led by Detroit Red Wings forwards Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio at 1,353. In the NBA, only two duos have broken 1,000: John Stockton/Karl Malone (1,412) and Tim Duncan/Tony Parker (1,002).

MLB players get a leg up due to playing 162-game seasons; Houston Astros stars Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell are the all-time leaders at 2,020. Meanwhile, no single NFL player has played in more games than Morten Andersen’s 382, putting the 1,000-game threshold well out of reach.

How does Ovechkin and Backstrom’s feat stack up with other duos in Washington sports history? Here are the other tandems that hold the record for their respective franchises.

Senators: Sam Rice and Joe Judge – 1,784 games

For the D.C. sports record of most games played by a pair of teammates, you have to go all the way back to the early 1900s. Hall of Famer Sam Rice and perennial MVP candidate Joe Judge both broke into Major League Baseball in 1915 with the Washington Senators (now Minnesota Twins), with whom they would remain until the twilight of their careers.

Rice and Judge helped the Senators to nine winning seasons between 1915 and 1932, making two World Series and winning one in 1924. That championship stood as D.C.’s last World Series win for 95 years until the Nationals won it in 2019. The record holders for the expansion-team Senators (now the Texas Rangers) are Frank Howard and Ed Brinkman at 870 games played.


Capitals: Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom – 999 games

Ovechkin and Backstrom’s careers have been intertwined ever since a 21-year-old Ovechkin stood up at the podium and announced the Capitals’ selection of Backstrom in the first round of the 2006 NHL Draft. Backstrom was in the league a year later and they’ve since developed into one of the most prolific scoring duos in hockey history.

Entering play Tuesday, Ovechkin has scored 612 of his 764 goals in games with Backstrom on the ice. Backstrom has only played 36 games in his entire 15-year career without Ovechkin, a testament to the latter’s durability. While Ovechkin has cemented his place as the greatest scorer of his generation, Backstrom is likely headed to the Hall of Fame in his own right as well.

Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom among longest-tenured DC sports duos

Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond – 664 games

The Nationals’ franchise record for most games played together by a pair of teammates technically belongs to former Montreal Expos Tim Raines and Tim Wallach (1,287). However, limiting the criteria to only players who took the field for D.C. brings us to infielders Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond.

Zimmerman holds just about every Nationals record out there including games played (1,799). As a result, there are several teammates who came close to sharing the field with Zimmerman as much as Desmond like Bryce Harper (649) and Jayson Werth (569). But it’s the three-time Silver Slugger shortstop, who played for the Nationals from 2009-15, holding the distinction.

Wizards/Bullets: Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes – 663 games

The only duo on this list to include two enshrined Hall of Famers, Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes dominated the NBA together for the entire 1970s. First playing in Baltimore before the team moved to Washington in 1973, Unseld and Hayes led the Bullets to eight straight playoff appearances including three NBA Finals runs and one championship title in 1978.

Unseld had already established himself as one of the top centers in the game when Hayes arrived in a trade with the Houston Rockets in 1972. The power forward gave the Bullets one of the most formidable frontcourts the NBA has ever seen, both averaging over 12 rebounds per game during their time together.

Commanders/Redskins: Art Monk and Monte Coleman – 180 games

Though they played on opposite sides of the ball, Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Art Monk and dependable linebacker Monte Coleman played more games together than any other duo in franchise history. Between 1980 and 1993, they anchored each unit for the then-Redskins dynasty under head coach Joe Gibbs that resulted in three Super Bowls.

Coleman rose from 11th round pick to 16-year NFL veteran while Monk was a first-round pick who earned a spot on the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1980s. They rank second and third, respectively, on the Commanders’ all-time games played list behind only Darrell Green.