Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have been fierce rivals on the ice since they both made their NHL debuts on Oct. 5, 2005. But despite the adversarial relationship between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals over that span, the two legends of the game have nothing but respect for each other off the ice.
Ovechkin sits at 730 career goals, miles ahead of the rest of the current pack of NHL players. Wayne Gretzky, ‘The Great One,’ leads him with 894 career tallies, an ever-narrowing gap of 164. Crosby is rooting for Ovechkin to break that record.
“I hope he does. I told him today that I hope he does. It would be awesome. He’s in range,” Crosby told Greg Wyshynski of ESPN during NHL Media Tour on Thursday. “He can score anywhere from inside the blue line.”
Pittsburgh’s No. 87 and Washington’s No. 8 have four Stanley Cups, 1,216 goals and 2,645 points between them over the course of their pro careers. They’re spoken in the same breath in nearly every conversation that centers around the game’s biggest stars and most impactful players.
Ovechkin just signed a five-year deal with Capitals this past offseason, ensuring the left wing will remain in D.C. through age 40. To catch Gretzky, he’ll need to average 33 goals per season over that span. But, it’s not his primary concern.
“I don’t even think about it right now, to be honest, because it’s too far. It’s a long way. And it’s a hard way. Whatever happens, happens,” Ovechkin told ESPN.
When Ovechkin, who turns 36 Friday, signed his new contract, the thought of climbing the league’s goal ladder wasn’t lost on him.
“I’m gonna try my best. That’s why I wanna play five more years. To have a chance to catch the Great One, why not?" Ovechkin said. "If I’m gonna be second, you know it’s a pretty good number as well."
Certain factors have stymied The Great 8 on his quest to climb that mountaintop over the course of his career: lockouts, the seldom-seen Ovi suspension, and a global pandemic to name a few. Still, he represents the current generation’s best chance of catching Gretzky.
Ovechkin is one goal shy of tying Marcel Dionne for fifth-most all time. He can catch Brett Hull at 641 with 10 more goals and Jaromir Jagr if he turns on the red light 36 times this season.
Crosby is wishing nothing but the best for Washington’s captain. That is, with one catch.
“I just hope that all his goals that he gets are against the other teams as he’s trying to add towards it," Crosby said.