Ovechkin remains at 800 goals, one behind Howe’s 801, after going without a goal in the Capitals’ three-game stretch that ended with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Monday. The stars aligned for Ovechkin to at least pair Howe against the Red Wings, the team with which “Mr. Hockey” played 25 of his 26 NHL seasons, featuring his sons, former NHL defensemen Mark and Marty Howe. But despite having a number of quality scoring moments, including a backhand that went off the post in the second period, he remained scoreless after reaching 800 with his hat trick against the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 13.
However, the atmosphere inside Capital One Arena has been electric in each of the previous three games. The crowd rose to its feet every time the 37-year-old left winger had a chance to score, anticipating his next big goal, showing the impact he has had during his 18 seasons in Washington.
“It’s kind of about legacy and importance,” Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said last week. “What he’s done just makes us relevant.”
As Gordie Howe, who died in 2016 at age 86, was an ambassador for hockey, Ovechkin has been a master of the sport in Washington and beyond.
“He brought the sport of hockey and the name ‘Caps’ to a whole other level in this city,” said Mark Howe, a 2011 Hockey Hall of Famer who played 16 seasons in the NHL. “As a scout, I’ve been scouting him for many years and I said there are very few people I’ve seen that have the ‘Wow’ factor. … He’s fun to watch. The loyalty that was shown between the organization and himself was great.”
That commitment was reinforced by the five-year, $47.5 million contract Ovechkin signed to remain with the Capitals on July 27, 2021. The contract was designed primarily with the intent that Ovechkin would play his entire NHL career with the team that selected him. #1 pick in the 2004 NHL Draft.
“I always say it’s my goal to stay with one team for the rest of my career,” Ovechkin said earlier this season. “Obviously, I’m lucky enough to be able to do things like this. So that’s pretty cool.”
But the secondary purpose of the contract was to give Ovechkin the number of seasons he thought he would need to chase Wayne Gretzky’s NHL record of 894 goals, which will be in his sights once he passes Howe.
“That was him,” Capitals GM Brian McLellan said. “I pushed for a three-year deal and then let’s see what happens from there, and he was pretty adamant about five. He wants to play five, and I think he chose five for a reason, in his own mind, what he was. thought he might reach in that time.”
Video. [email protected] The Howe brothers discuss Daddy Gordy and Ovechkin
Ovechkin helped the Capitals win their first Stanley Cup in 2018, when he also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and he has repeatedly spoken of his drive to win the Cup again. But chasing Howe and ultimately Gretzky’s record, and wanting to break it with the Capitals, will be as much a part of his legacy as the championships he wins.
He already owns the NHL record for most goals with one team, surpassing Howe’s previous mark, scoring his 787th goal for Washington on Nov. 5 against the Arizona Coyotes.
“I think that’s a big story for a guy, Day 1, who said, ‘Can we build this relationship of trust and his loyalty, and his resilience was just impressive,'” Leonsis said. “And that’s a record that will probably never be broken, to have that many goals with just one team. And now we’re numb to the fact that there’s something every day. [On Nov. 30] he broke Gretzky’s record for most away goals (scoring his 403rd) and I was wondering how many players have that many goals in their career.
Leonsis was surprised after last week’s NHL Board of Governors meeting in Palm Beach, Fla., how each of the league’s national television partners — ESPN, Turner Sports and Sportsnet — made presentations that began with images of Ovechkin.
“Trust me, 10 years ago you wouldn’t have come to these meetings and he’s the first one there,” Leonsis said. “And that’s been his consistency, and I wouldn’t say there’s been any flashes. We do not do marketing programs etc. We’ve been on national TV 18 times, I think he’s striking gold this year. We don’t get paid for it. It’s good for the league.”
The “Ovechkin Effect” on the growth of hockey in the Washington area has been well documented. Washington (422), Maryland (6,450) and Virginia (5,984) registered 12,856 players during Ovechkin’s rookie season in 2005-2006, according to USA Hockey’s annual report. That number jumped to 21,487 in Washington (1,295), Maryland (10,080) and Virginia (10,112) in USA Hockey’s most recent 2021-22 report.
That growth is one of the reasons Moscow native Ovechkin was selected to receive the Wayne Gretzky International Award in 2019, established by the USA Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999 to honor international individuals who have made significant contributions to the growth and advancement of hockey in the United States.
Ovechkin’s impact on the NHL record books may be just as significant before he retires. Ovechkin eclipsed Gretzky’s 94-goal streak and has shown no signs of slowing down this season. He leads Washington and is eighth in the NHL with 20 goals in 34 games this season, giving him 48 goals on the season.
“It’s pretty incredible,” McLellan said. “He keeps doing what he’s doing. He enjoys it. He continues to produce. We keep talking about the same conversations, but he’s having fun, it seems, and I think he’s also motivated to see what he can do here production-wise. “
And while Ovechkin will have three seasons left on his contract after this one, it may not take him that long to overtake Gretzky.
“I know,” McLellan said with a laugh. “I think it’s funny because a few years ago, ‘Nobody’s Gonna Catch Wayne.’ And now, “He’s going to get 1,000.” It’s crazy.”
NHL.com columnist Nicholas J. Kotsonica contributed to this report.