Wayne Gretzky is looking forward to watching Alex Ovechkin resume his pursuit of his League goals record this season from his new seat as a studio analyst for the NHL on TNT.
Ovechkin will enter the Washington Capitals’ season opener against the New York Rangers at Capital One Arena on Oct. 13 (7:30 p.m. ET; TNT) with 730 goals in 16 NHL seasons, 165 away from breaking Gretzky’s record of 894.
“Game one we get to see Washington and we get to see Alex try to chase down my record, which I hope he breaks,” Gretzky said during a teleconference Wednesday previewing the inaugural season of Turner Sports’ seven-year agreement to televise NHL regular-season and Stanley Cup Playoff games on TNT and TBS. “I’m really excited about getting the chance to watch him all the way through the year.”
Gretzky, who retired in 1999 after 20 NHL seasons, holds or shares 61 League records, including goals, assists (1,963) and points (2,857). He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999.
Gretzky reached a multiyear agreement to join Turner Sports as an NHL studio analyst May 26. The studio panel will also include host Liam McHugh, former NHL forward and coach Rick Tocchet, former NHL forward Anson Carter and former NHL forward Paul Bissonnette.
“People have said all the time, ‘You sit around and talk hockey, you might as well get on TV and talk to the public,'” Gretzky said. “So I’m really excited about that opportunity. There are so many great young players in the game today, guys like (Edmonton Oilers forward) Connor McDavid and (Colorado Avalanche forward) Nathan MacKinnon and (Toronto Maple Leafs forward) Auston Matthews and, of course, guys like Alex Ovechkin and (Pittsburgh Penguins forward) Sidney Crosby.”
Ovechkin often downplays his chances of breaking Gretzky’s record. But after signing a five-year, $47.5 million contract to remain with Washington on July 27, the 36-year-old acknowledged that the length of the contract was related to chasing history.
“That’s why I want to play five more years,” Ovechkin said. “To have a chance to catch the Great One, why not?”
Ovechkin, who scored 24 goals in 45 games last season, needs to average 33 goals per season to break Gretzky’s record before his new contract expires.
Gretzky believes that is well within Ovechkin’s capabilities.
“He’s definitely got a legitimate shot,” he said. “Let’s call a spade a spade. He’s got a great opportunity. He’s on a good team. He plays with really good centermen. He enjoys playing and loves playing in Washington. So he just has to be himself, go out there and play hard like he does every night.”
Ovechkin is currently sixth in goals in NHL history and can climb to third by scoring 37 this season. The Moscow native is one goal behind Marcel Dionne (731) for fifth, 11 behind Brett Hull (741) for fourth, and 36 behind Jaromir Jagr (766) for third.
If Ovechkin passes Jagr, he’d trail only Gordie Howe (801) and Gretzky. Then, the countdown to the goals record would begin in earnest.
“If he can stay healthy, I think this is the greatest thing for the game,” Gretzky said. “I think it’s a positive. He’s been so good for not only the NHL, but he’s been great for hockey in Russia. He’s been great for hockey worldwide. So I’m just one of his biggest fans and it’s only good for the game if he can break the record.
“So he just has to be relaxed and it’s going to take two, three, four years, but eventually he’s probably going to break the record.”