Ovechkin set to take on Gretzky via Xbox — and it’s all for charity

Wednesday night is hockey night in D.C. — virtually, but the star power is real.

Billed as the Great One vs. The Great Eight Showcase, Wayne Gretzky and Alex Ovechkin will compete against each other in the video game NHL 20 on the Capitals Twitch Channel.

“We are very lucky that Alex and Wayne have a fantastic relationship,” said Monumental Sports and Entertainment Senior Vice President Zach Leonsis. “Alex recently posted on Instagram a video of him playing the NHL game with his son and I think that caught Wayne’s eye. And Wayne said: ‘Why don’t we team up and do something? We can stream online a competitive match between ourselves and use it as an opportunity raise money for COVID-19 relief.’”

While watching the competition, fans will be able to donate to COVID-19 relief in both Edmonton —where Gretzky and the Oilers won four Stanley Cups — and here in D.C. through the MSE Foundation’s “Feeding the Frontlines” fund, which provides meals to heroes in the medical community.

The puck will drop — or should we say, the Xbox will be turned on – at 8 p.m., and a best-of-three format will determine the winner.

Although this really will be a night of victory for all, with two of the greatest players to ever lace up skates playing hockey in the only way possible right now to address the needs of the moment.

“I think you can definitely count on some playful banter,” said Leonsis. “I think the opportunity to watch these guys hang out if you will for an hour or so will be illuminating for fans. These guys have stories from the game that very few other people on the planet really do.”

Gretzky earned the moniker the “The Great One” as he took the NHL by storm in the ’80s and ’90s and became the league’s all-time scorer with 894 goals.

Ovi’s moniker, “The Great Eight,” matches his jersey number and where he currently ranks on the all-time scoring list with 706 career goals.

But one day, he will have a chance to continue his pursuit of Gretzky’s on-ice record.

For now, Ovechkin and Gretzky will go head-to-head using controllers instead of sticks and in different locations. Ovechkin will be paired with John Wayne Casagranda, who became the first esports pro signed by an NHL team when he joined the Capitals Gaming team.

Casagranda recently qualified for the 2020 NHL Gaming World Championship with a 23-0 record.

Gretzky will get help from his son, Tristian. While not a professional gamer, Tristian is a 19-year-old who has hockey in his DNA.

Ovechkin’s son Sergei also has hockey in his DNA, but he’s not yet 2 years old.

“We have been trying to do our best to really provide our fans with some new programming to try and bring back a sense of normalcy,” said Leonsis, “and to bring back entertainment people can enjoy from the comforts of their home so that we can flatten the curve and get through this as quickly as possible.

“We can’t wait to start playing games again,” Leonsis said. “I know Alex is incredibly eager as well, and that will happen soon enough.”

You can watch the matchup and donate here.

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Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson is Senior Sports Director and morning sports anchor. He first arrived at WTOP in 1989, left in 1992 and returned in 1995. He is a three-time winner of the A.I.R. award as best radio sportscaster in D.C. In 2008 he won the Edward R. Murrow award for best writing for sports commentaries.

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