As the Washington Capitals took to Zoom for exit interviews yesterday, there was a still a major elephant in the virtual chat room. As Alex Ovechkin took a seat, looking into the webcam, there appeared to be no change, with everything remaining “status quo” as it has all season for the 35-year-old.
Showing off his signature smile featuring a missing tooth that’s become synonymous with the face of Capitals hockey, Ovechkin appeared put all speculation to rest.
“I’m confident, obviously. We still have time,” Ovechkin said. “Obviously I want to finish my career here. I’m pretty sure we will do something soon.”
As he continues talks with owner Ted Leonsis and general manager Brian MacLellan, his NHL legacy speaks volumes that have become louder and louder.
“Since I’ve come into the game, when you think of the Washington Capitals, you think of Alex Ovechkin,” T.J. Oshie said of his teammate, adding, “I think Ovi loves it here, I think Ovi wants to stay forever, I think they want him here forever.”
Oshie is correct. Since going first overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the Russian winger easily climbed the ranks and is the best player to wear the Washington jersey. Not only that, but he’s also emerging as one of, if not, the greatest goal scorers of all time as he chases Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 career goals.
At 35, Ovechkin finished a 2020-21 campaign shortened by COVID and leg and back injuries with a team-leading 24 goals. He has never scored under 20 goals in his entire career and surpassed both Mike Gartner and Phil Esposito to move up to sixth on the all-time goals list, just one tally behind fifth-place holder Marcel Dionne.
In addition, his two goals in the postseason helped him surpass the 800-goal mark over the course of his entire career, including both the regular season and playoffs.
Beyond the stats though, is the continued dedication to the game as he laces up the trademark yellow laces night after night. His signature shot from his “office” in the left circle has become one of the most famous in the history of the game, as well as one of the hardest to stop.
He continues to emulate the same passion that he showed in his NHL debut, as he celebrates each and every goal like it’s his first — whether it be his own strike or a teammate’s.
“I just love the game. I love to be around the guys. I love to be on the ice and as soon as I’m not gonna have fun, as soon as I’m not gonna be, like, all to do something out there, I won’t,” Ovechkin said. “I’m still loving it, I still have a passion of it and it’s a great feeling to be out there and be on the ice with those guys. It’s fun.”
Off the ice, the captain has made his mark in the Washington dressing room and entire D.C. area. He’s both loved and admired by his teammates, as he balances work and play with unorthodox pre-game warm-ups and serious drive on the ice.
Not only that, he’s a staple in the community, working closely with children with special needs, bringing the Stanley Cup to Fort Dupont Ice Arena and raising money for Meals on Wheels. Back in his hometown of Moscow, Russia, the countryman is perhaps the most prominent figure and continues to give back, working closely with Russian orphanages.
“Since day one, I got to know Alex in different ways than playing against him on the ice. He’s a great human being, an amazing player, a great leader,” Zdeno Chara said of No. 8. “So to be on the same team was a great experience I will cherish the rest of my life. I’m very grateful for that.”
As he continues his quest to finish his career with another Stanley Cup — all while chasing Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 goals, Ovechkin doesn't think the window is closed on either front.
“You still have chances, man. You just have to go out there and do your thing and maybe it’s happen, maybe not, but how I said, one step at a time,” Ovechkin explained.
Ultimately, it’s expected — and should come as no surprise — that Ovechkin and his teammates aren’t concerned about the captain’s future in D.C., and that it’s likely he’ll finish his career sporting the same red sweater.
“This is the player, the franchise player that he is going to retire here for sure in my opinion... I don’t think I can imagine him wearing a different jersey just based on what he has done for this team and what he means to this organization, for city and for fans, for everybody,” Kuznetsov said.