When Wayne Gretzky set the record for the most goals in league history, he took the record from all-time great Gordie Howe. Gretzky is now using Howe as a model for how to act with Alex Ovechkin trying to make a run at his goals record.
"I remember when I was breaking Gordie Howe's record, my dad said to me at one point in time your record is going to be broken one day and I hope you have as much class and dignity as Gordie Howe has had, breaking his record," Gretzky said on NBCSN's Hockey at Home in a special joint interview with Ovechkin. "And I hope I do."
Gretzky's goal record of 894 has long been thought to be untouchable. Ovechkin, however, now has 706 goals at the age of 34 and remarkably still is showing no signs of aging. With the NHL season on pause, Ovechkin is tied for the league lead in goals with 48.
Because of his goal-scoring prowess and remarkable durability, Ovechkin has a legitimate shot at challenging for Gretzky's goal record.
Not every elite athlete would be thrilled at the prospect of one day losing one of their most iconic records, but not Gretzky. Gretzky is openly cheering for Ovechkin to do it.
"I can't help but cheer and root for him each and every day," Gretzky said. "I watch a lot of his games. I probably watch almost every game he plays. I hope for him to score goals, I pull for him to score goals. I think it's great for the game. I think that what he's doing is tremendous."
Apart from the excitement of Ovechkin's chase of one of the biggest records in hockey, Gretzky's experience with Howe looms large, as does his admiration for Ovechkin.
"I hope that I'm the first guy to be able to shake [Ovechkin's] hand when he does break my record," Gretzky said. "I don't think there's any doubt in my mind that he has a great chance to do that. He plays on a good team, he plays with good players and most importantly Alex plays hard every single night and to me, if you don't play hard every night, those are kind of records you can't break. So I think it's great for hockey, I think it's wonderful for Washington and the Capitals, I think it's outstanding for Alex and his family, and I'm rooting for him as hard as anybody so I think it'll be great, wonderful day for the game of hockey when he gets to the record."
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