Ovechkin ties Gordie Howe goals record after meeting Mr. Hockey’s son

DETROIT — When Alex Ovechkin came off the ice after warmups Thursday, Mark Howe was waiting for him.

The son of the late Gordie Howe knew Ovechkin had 785 goals, one shy of his dad’s NHL record for goals with one team. He wanted to encourage Ovechkin in person before the Washington Capitals played the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena.

“Hey, Alex,” Mark said, shaking Ovechkin’s hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too,” Ovechkin said.

“On behalf of myself, Gordie and the Howe family, we wish you the best,” Mark said, patting Ovechkin on the shoulder. “Good luck. Keep going. Don’t stop.”

Tweet from @Capitals: The #Gr8 meets Mark Howe for the first time! pic.twitter.com/dmpJn5fIlk

Ovechkin tied the record soon afterward. Center Evgeny Kuznetsov passed the puck from the right circle to the left circle. Ovechkin stopped it with his left skate, kicked it to his stick blade, puck-handled quickly and fired a wrist shot past the glove of goalie Ville Husso to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead at 7:11 of the second period.

How perfect.

Ovechkin happened to score right underneath Howe’s No. 9 in the rafters. Howe played at Olympia Stadium in Detroit from 1946-71, and the original letters “O-L-Y-M-P-I-A” that once hung on the brick exterior of that rink have been restored and hang on a brick wall in the concourse of this one, not far from a statue of Mr. Hockey.

“Yeah, it’s huge, obviously,” Ovechkin said after the Capitals’ 3-1 loss. “I played my whole career here in Washington. Tied with a legend, it’s a pretty big number, and it’s a pretty cool accomplishment.”

Video: WSH@DET: Ovechkin ties Howe for most goals for 1 team

Ovechkin met Howe before he died June 10, 2016. There is a photo of them together in the locker room at the 2009 NHL All-Star Game at Bell Centre in Montreal, Ovechkin leaning on his stick and looking intently at Howe. He called it a “huge honor” and “very good memory.” 

This will be another one.

“He’s a phenomenal goal-scorer,” Mark said. “Do I think he’s a better player than Gordie Howe? No. I think Gordie was a better overall player. But Alex Ovechkin is as pure a goal-scorer as there is in the game.”

Mark, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, is an authority on the subject.

He played with his dad with the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association from 1973-77, the New England Whalers of the WHA from 1977-79 and the Hartford Whalers of the NHL in 1979-80. After scoring those 786 goals for Detroit and retiring for two years, Gordie came back to score 121 more with Houston, 53 more with New England and 15 more with Hartford.

After Gordie retired, Mark played for the Whalers for two more seasons, then for the Philadelphia Flyers from 1982-92 and the Red Wings from 1992-95. He served as a Red Wings pro scout from 1995-2021. He was in Detroit on Thursday because the Red Wings celebrated the 25th anniversary of their 1997 Stanley Cup championship team.

Based in Philadelphia, Mark scouted the Capitals often. He estimated he saw Ovechkin play about 10 times a season from the time he entered the NHL in 2005-06.

“I’ve watched him score a lot of goals,” Mark said.

Mark sees some of his dad in Ovechkin. Like Gordie was in his era, Ovechkin is big, strong and powerful relative to most of the other players in the NHL. Gordie was 6-foot, 205 pounds when he played. Mark was 5-11, 185 when he played. Ovechkin is 6-3, 238.

“I can’t wait to see the picture we took together,” Mark said. “Plus, he’s on skates. I must look like a little field mouse next to him.”

For years, Mark felt it was inevitable Ovechkin would catch his dad for this record. Now he feels it’s inevitable Ovechkin will climb all the way to the top of the NHL goals list. He’s third at 786. Howe is second at 801. Wayne Gretzky is first at 894.

Ovechkin is 37 years old, but he scored 50 goals in 77 games last season, fourth in the NHL behind Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (60), Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (55) and New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider (52). He has six goals in 12 games this season. 

“His shot’s as good as any,” Mark said. “There are very few people that have that knack. Once they start losing it, they start hitting the goalie in the crest. His pucks are still going in the corner.

“It’s obvious that he loves what he’s doing. Sometimes money, people get satisfied. He’s not satisfied. You can tell he’s driven. He wants to win. He’s one hell of a goal-scorer.”

Photo credit: @Capitals

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