The coronavirus pandemic has left the NHL with the 2019-20 season on pause and fans looking for sources of entertainment during the stoppage. Now they're going to get it in the form of two of the greatest players that the league has ever seen facing off...virtually.
NHL icon Wayne Gretzky and Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin have agreed to a video game face off in "NHL 20" Wednesday to raise money to aid COVID-19 relief efforts. The contest will be streamed on the Capitals' Twitch channel and played on Xbox One. Viewers will be able to make donations while the match is streamed, and proceeds will go to the Edmonton Food Bank and also Monumental Sports & Entertainment's Feeding the Frontlines fund, which supports coronavirus patients in the Washington D.C. area.
According to The Washington Post, Gretzky was inspired by an Instagram video of Ovechkin playing the video game with his young son, Sergei, sitting on his lap during the coronavirus pandemic. Gretzky then got in contact with Capitals' vice president of communications Sergey Kocharov, who he knew when the two were both with the then-Phoenix Coyotes, about a potential showdown between Ovechkin and himself.
"There's been so much talk about the goal record, so there's a nice link between Alex and myself," Gretzky told the Post. "I thought we could do something that people could watch and help raise money for those who need it."
Gretzky realizes that the two aren't going to be nearly as talented in a virtual showdown, but wants to help out during these strange times.
"Obviously, we're a little better when we have our skates on and a hockey stick in our hands than we are when we have controllers, but it's not about that," Gretzky added. "It's more about the ability to help people that are less fortunate and for fans to enjoy a night of us not looking very talented at what we're doing. It'll be a fun night for a good cause. We're not looking to replace the NHL because we all want to see guys like Alex and Sidney [Crosby] and [Connor] McDavid back on the ice. That's what really excites fans."
Gretzky and Ovechkin are going to be linked throughout the remainder of Ovechkin's career. Gretzky is currently the all-time goals leader with 894 goals, while Ovechkin just eclipsed the 700-goal mark this season,.
Ovechkin currently has 706 goals, which is good for eighth place on the all-time list. The Capitals forward is one of just eight players to register at least 700 goals during the course of his NHL career.
In addition, Ovechkin is currently tied for the league lead in goals (48) with Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak. Ovechkin is just two goals away from his ninth 50-goal season, which would tie Mike Bossy and Gretzky for the most all-time. If the season resumes and Ovechkin gets to 50 goals, it would mark the second consecutive season in which he eclipsed that total.
"Of course you want to score 50," Ovechkin said last month. "But right now, the most important thing is to stay safe and make sure this [pandemic] is done. It sucks to not score 50 and to not get another milestone, but you have to think about your family, people and the fans to be more safe."