Wayne Gretzky says Alex Ovechkin 'absolutely' can break his goal record
Capitals' star forward needs to average 34 goals for 7 seasons to pass 'The Great One'
Wayne Gretzky retired in 1999 holding or sharing a staggering 61 NHL records.
But he believes one, in particular, could be broken by Alex Ovechkin: his regular-season goal-scoring mark of 894.
The Washington Capitals captain boasts 658 goals, or 236 fewer than Gretzky. The 33-year-old Russian needs to average 33.9 goals over the next seven seasons to make history.
The odds are stacked against Ovechkin, but Gretzky is convinced it could happen.
"Absolutely. First and foremost, you got to be injury-free and Alex has been injury-free throughout his career," Gretzky said on this week's Hockey Night in Canada podcast with Rob Pizzo, commemorating his retirement on April 18, 1999.
"You have to play in a good organization and Alex is playing in a good organization. And, you have to play with good players, and Alex is playing on a good team with good players. I just have nothing but respect for the young man. He plays the game hard, he plays physical and he wants to win."
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Ovechkin has produced eight 50-goal seasons and 47 on average. Should he maintain his current pace, he would break Gretzky's record.
"If he breaks my record, I will be the first guy there to shake his hand," Gretzky said. "I think it is good for hockey and I think it's great for sports when people break records."
Gretzky's support comes from his dad, Walter, who pointed out how gracious the late Hall of Famer Gordie Howe was when his goal record was broken by No. 99.
"My dad said when I broke Gordie Howe's record, and I was a little bit embarrassed, he said, 'You know, one day someone is going to come along and maybe break your record and you just make sure you handle it yourself the same way Gordie Howe did,'" Gretzky said.
"And that is what I am trying to do. Listen, I have nothing but respect and time for Alex, and good for him. If he does get close and does break it, I'll be there at the game, hopefully. And, hopefully, I can be the first guy to shake his hand."