With hockey revenue at a stand still and as uncertainty of remaining games linger, the NHL is feverishly looking for feel good stories. And so they should, it’s good for the fans, the players, and the game. Although one story seems, how do you put this? A little persuaded. Sure, Wayne Gretzky and Alexander Ovechkin seem to getting along like reunited old pals at the moment, but this potential passing of the torch bromance feels orchestrated.
Wayne Gretzky currently holds the NHL records for most goals, assists and points, he succeeded his childhood idol Gordie Howe in each category. The late great Howe took Gretzky under his wing even before Gretzky was a pro. It was apparent that the teenage phenome would become a special player and even though Howe played well into his declining years to stab his flag atop hockey’s statistics, inevitably Gretzky quickly morphed into "the Great One". In 1989 while Wayne was playing for the LA kings he a had a chance to tie Gordie’s record against his former team, the Edmonton Oilers. It seemed only fitting that the sold out crowd in Edmonton were on hand to witness the same 28-year-old who brought the city 4 Stanley Cups now make history for himself. Gretzky not only tied the record with an assist early in the game, but he scored the game tying goal late in the game to surpass Howe. The game was paused while a small ceremony took place on centre ice where Gordie congratulated Wayne on the historic occasion. Shortly after, the game went to overtime and Gretzky scored the game winner to put the icing on the cake. He went on to accumulate another 1000 points in his career.
Stopping another game mid stream, really?
Perhaps I’m bias on this one because Gretzky scored the goals record against my favourite team, the Vancouver Canucks in 1994. Perhaps Gretzky was so dominant to his sport that he deserved both TEAMS to stand idle while he reveled in his individual accolades. Albeit, this time it was on home ice where he unquestionably grew the game of hockey, but where on the planet does a professional sports match take a hiatus to pat someone on the back, let alone twice?
Ovi is creeping in
If it weren’t for a random run in with Wayne Gretzky where TMZ popped the question, "do you want Ovechkin to break your goals record?" I don’t think we would be seeing this bromance unfold. His answer - "of course, it would be great for the game and I would be the first to shake his hand".
Gretzky’s record is 894 goals, Ovi is sitting in 8th spot with 706, but has been closing in fast. Almost an impossible feat for a 34 year old, but Ovi has hit at least 49 goals 5 times in the passed 6 seasons and he currently has 48 in this campaign that may or may not continue due to covid-19. Gretzky has so many NHL records that will never be broken, but this has a real chance.
The new normal
During the covid 19 pandemic The Great One and The Great 8 teamed up to raise money for the cause by virtually lacing up the skates in an NHL 20 challenge on Play Station 4 that streamed online. Gretzky played for his 80s Oilers and Ovi as his current Capitals. They each won a game piling up over $20,000 in support and then they dug in their pockets to double it. The two pros had a ball, it seemed highly competitive to attest to their characters and they shared a lot of laughs.
Rogers Sportsnet aired a zoom interview with the two a few days later. Much of the content cornered the two stars into drenching one another in praise. It was all very nauseating. In another zoom chat Gretzky navigated through a maze of questions from up and coming NHL draftees. When asked who his dream line mates in the current NHL would be, he predictably answered Connor McDavid (current Oiler mega talent) and Alexander Ovechkin.
It’s obviously the NHL is conditioning its fans for another passing of the torch, but however hard they try facts are facts. Ovechkin did not idolize Gretzky as a kid, like Wayne did Gordie, he looked up Mario Lemieux.