Gretzky surprises Caps’ TV booth, talks Ovechkin’s record chase originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
NBC Sports Washington’s broadcast booth of Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin were preparing to send viewers to the studio for the first intermission of Sunday’s game between the Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs when an unexpected guest arrived: Wayne Gretzky.
The Hall of Famer surprised Beninati and Laughlin during the final minute of the first period and he spent a few minutes chatting with the Capitals announcers about Alex Ovechkin’s chase of Gretzky’s all-time goals record. Ovechkin passed Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL leaderboard earlier this season and entered play Sunday 82 goals back of Gretzky’s 894 mark.
“Everybody always says to me, ‘Are you worried about the record?’ I don’t worry about it,” Gretzky said.
“One day when I was sitting with my dad, I said, ‘I’m so nervous I’m breaking Gordie Howe’s record,’ and my dad, he’s so smart, he said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Gordie is proud of you. One day you’ll be the same way, same class, as when that guy beats your record.’ And I said, ‘OK,’ and here we are today. He’s got a chance and I hope he does it. It’s good for the game.”
Gretzky admitted he doesn’t attend many games in person, but his son convinced him to go see Ovechkin play with the Capitals in Toronto. The 15-time All-Star and nine-time Hart Trophy winner has held the NHL goals record since March 23, 1994, when he passed Howe with his 802nd career tally. He lauded Ovechkin for being an ambassador of the sport and shared why he was glad the Capitals winger would be the one to challenge his record.
“Forget about the record, I’m so happy that he won a Stanley Cup,” Gretzky said. “The most important thing in this game is to win a championship, right? It doesn’t mean anything unless you win a championship. And secondly, how good he treats people, how great he is to the media, how good he is to the community and how good he is to his home country.
“He’s just a wonderful young man and, listen, he deserves all the credit and accolades he’s getting. I couldn’t be more happy to be around a guy that has a chance to break my record. It’s not gonna change my life, it’s gonna be a positive for the NHL. That’s all that matters.”