Watching Alex Ovechkin Score No. 800 is Something I Won't Forget

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Watching Alex Ovechkin Score No. 800 is Something I Won’t Forget

Chicago Blackhawks

Last night I felt fortunate to be at the United Center to watch history happen. Yeah, it sucked that it came at the expense of the Blackhawks. But the response from the crowd at the game was what it should have been: a thunderous applause.

Alexander Ovechkin scored his 800th career regular season goal in the third period. It was his third of the night, the 29th time in his illustrious career that Ovechkin scored at least three goals in a game. He moved past Marcel Dionne and, ironically, Bobby Hull into sole possession of sixth in NHL history in that category.

After thinking about it as I drove home and then sleeping on it, I’m more reflective today about the history I was lucky to witness in person last night.

I am old enough that I have been fortunate to watch or, in some cases, see some pretty amazing things in person. In fact, I would humbly submit that I have been in attendance at some pretty remarkable events in my lifetime.

But last night might be at the top of the list.

There are very few benchmarks in professional sports that fans recognize. In Chicago, we were blessed to watch Walter Payton become the NFL’s all-time rushing leader. But not many people know the number by heart. Michael Jordan became the greatest basketball player in history in this town, but he isn’t the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. And not many people know the number that NBA players are chasing to catch that all-time record.

In baseball, the magic number is 700 home runs. This past season, fans were able to watch Albert Pujols enjoy a renaissance season and reach the club. Pujols is the fourth member of that exclusive fraternity, joining Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron and Babe Ruth. And there is the cloud of steroids hovering over the all-time leader, Bonds, for baseball.

In the past couple decades we’ve seen two players — Bonds and Pujols — reach 700 (and one has an asterisk attached).

In hockey, 800 goals is very much like 700 home runs. You really, truly don’t know if you’ll ever see it again. It feels like an unattainable benchmark that only the truly greats can achieve.

Last night, Ovechkin became just the third player to hit the milestone in the history of the NHL.

Here’s where my brain went as I took a step back and really appreciated what Ovechkin did last night.

We’ve talked a lot in this space this season about the reality that legends very rarely stay in one place. In fact, the cliche in all of sports regarding that comes from hockey: “If Wayne Gretzky can get traded…” reminds us that even the best don’t often wear a single jersey their entire career.

At the top of the all-time leaderboards in different sports, it’s even more rare to see a player who did it all for one franchise. Emmitt Smith finished his career with the Cardinals. Jerry Rice changed teams, too. So have Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played for two franchises; LeBron James (second in all-time scoring) and Karl Malone (third) did, too. Ruth, Bonds, Aaron and Pujols all have multiple jerseys on the backs of their baseball cards, too. And, in hockey, both Gretzky and Howe changed jerseys more than once, too.

When we look at hallowed achievements in professional sports, doing it is incredible. Doing it for one team? Almost unheard of.

In my mind, Ovechkin’s true fraternity is more remarkable because he’s done it all for the Washington Capitals. If you look at the top five all-time leaders in the NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB in the big numbers — goals, points, rushing, passing or receiving yards and home runs — there are three players in the history of all of those leagues who did it in a single jersey.

Sweetness, Kobe Bryant and Ovechkin.

That’s amazing.

Again, I am thankful the United Center crowd recognized the moment and celebrated it. At the end of the night, as the teams skated off the ice, the last player to leave was Ovechkin. And he took a moment to raise his stick to the crowd one last time to show his appreciation for the applause he had received earlier in the game when he made history.

These moments don’t come around very often. And last night was an all-time moment I won’t forget.

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab