On Oct. 10, 2005, Alex Ovechkin scored his third career NHL goal, a wrist shot past New York Rangers goalie Kevin Weekes on a power play midway through the third period that lifted Washington to a 3-2 win at home.
“I saw the rebound and when the puck came to me, I said, ‘Oh my God, puck,’” the Capitals’ then-20-year-old rookie said afterward. “I must shoot. I got lucky.”
More than 800 goals later, the grizzled veteran Ovechkin has a different perspective on luck. In the trailer for “Gr8tness,” an ESPN-produced documentary about the Capitals captain that premieres Saturday at 2 p.m. Eastern on ABC ahead of the NHL All-Star Game, Weekes, who became a TV analyst after retiring in 2009, asks Ovechkin what it feels like to score a goal.
“Every time is a great feeling,” Ovechkin replies. “If I hit the goalie, he’s lucky. If I hit the empty spot, it’s in.”
Weekes, who conducted a lengthy interview with Ovechkin for NHL Network after Ovechkin joined the 600-goal club in 2018, sat down with Ovechkin for more than an hour on Jan. 15 on Long Island, a day before the Capitals’ 4-3 overtime win against the New York Islanders. They discussed a range of topics, from what fuels Ovechkin, a Stanley Cup champion and father of two, at 37, his rivalry with Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby and his pursuit of Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record.
As Alex Ovechkin eyes Wayne Gretzky, a look at some of sports’ unbreakable records
“He was very insightful in terms of his path and his mentality,” Weekes said in a telephone interview. “He talked a lot about what’s driven him to be successful and to sustain that level of success and that greatness, and to have that longevity to now be in pursuit of a video game record that we thought was impossible for anyone to break. … The essence of [the documentary] is chronicling not only the basic pursuit, but a lot of the how and the why.”
“This is the story of arguably the greatest pure goal scorer ever,” Andy Tennant, ESPN vice president and executive producer of original content, said in a release. “Viewers will come to understand how one of the all-time greats has approached his craft, what it takes, game after game, season after seasons — all the pressure, all the passion.”
Monumental Productions, the Capitals’ in-house video studio, provided behind-the-scenes footage of Ovechkin as he approached 800 career goals for the hour-long documentary. Ovechkin reached the mark with a hat trick at Chicago on Dec. 13. Ten days later, he scored his 802nd goal to pass Gordie Howe for second all-time. With 812 career goals at the all-star break, Ovechkin is 82 shy of matching Gretzky.
In addition to Ovechkin’s interview with Weekes, “Gr8tness” features interviews with Gretzky, Capitals players, Coach Peter Laviolette and General Manager Brian MacLellan, and a roundtable discussion hosted by ESPN’s John Buccigross, who was among the first analysts to suggest that Ovechkin might become the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorer, way back in 2010.
For the 800th time: No one plays hockey like Alex Ovechkin
Weekes, who held Ovechkin scoreless the only other time he faced him, in December 2007, said Hall of Famer Brendan Shanahan was one of the only players he played with or against during his 11-year NHL career whose arsenal of shots was remotely similar to Ovechkin’s. Shanahan finished with 656 career goals over 21 seasons.
“There’s 8 billion people on planet Earth, and there’s two or three people that can shoot the puck close to the way Ovi shoots it,” Weekes said. “It’s a crazy thing. The way his blade is, and his torque and the way the puck jumps off the stick, you never know where it’s going. He keeps you guessing all the time. He can put it through you, he can put it past you, and he just scores in so many different ways.”
Weekes recalled the story of former Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig telling him during Ovechkin’s first training camp with Washington that the young Russian was the best player he’d ever played with. Weekes marveled at how quickly Ovechkin went from 600 to 800 goals, despite two pandemic-shortened seasons.
“You make the NHL, you’re a unicorn anyway,” he said. “There’s just different levels of unicorns. Are you a unicorn to the power of three, to the power of four, power of 10? People like Ovi and Sid, they’re unicorns to infinity.”