ALBA, Fla. — Alex Ovechkin predicts that he will one day sit down with Sidney Crosby to rethink their careers.
His forever rival agrees.
For now, the dynamic duo bonded by talent and circumstance since making their NHL debut still have plenty of unfinished business on the ice.
Both players, in their 18th season, dream of once again hoisting the Stanley Cup, while Ovechkin is relentlessly busy breaking Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goalscoring record.
Crosby has 1,469 career points. Ovechkin has 1,464.
Their trophy cabinets are equally crammed with personal accolades.
The pair have been involved in epic playoff matchups, but also know that time is running out on their Hall of Fame career.
“It’s definitely something that I appreciate more and more every year,” Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain, said of his journey largely mirroring Ovechkin’s. “Just to be able to compete against him all these years and see what he keeps doing, to see it firsthand year after year is pretty unique.”
Due to health and other reasons, Crosby, 35, and Ovechkin, 37, will play in only their fourth All-Star game together on Saturday.
“He’s still enjoying hockey,” said Ovechkin, whose 812 career goals are just 82 fewer than Gretzky’s. “I still enjoy playing hockey.”
Crosby is eager to see the Washington Capitals captain play the game and get past the Great One.
“He’s well on his way to taking the record,” said the Cole Harbour, NS product, who was expected to take part in Friday’s breakaway challenge with Ovechkin during the skills competition.
“Let’s hope he does.”
The stable of NHL stars on hand for the all-star celebration in South Florida are mesmerized by the two superstars they watched the most on TV as their teens.
“They grew up together,” said Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid. “Many big fights in the playoffs, and both won. It was really cool to see that fight as a fan.
“Seeing how much respect they have for each other as well, that’s amazing.”
Ottawa Senators captain Brady Tkachuk and older brother Matthew, who plays for the Florida Panthers, were both in Crosby’s first all-star game in Dallas in 2007.
“Being here and talking to them is what you dreamed of as a kid,” said Brady Tkachuk. “Is very funny.”
First time Philadelphia Flyers all-star Kevin Hayes said the symmetry of Crosby and Ovechkin’s paths is hard to fathom.
“It’s been Sid and Ovie since they’ve been in the league,” he said. “When you watch when they first come to the league, you don’t expect to ever play against them, and then you finally do.
“Those are good times that you don’t forget.”
Toronto Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner said the Pittsburgh-Washington playoff matchups — at their bitterest peak — were date viewing, including when both Crosby and Ovechkin recorded hat-tricks in the same game in 2009.
“It was crazy, really, just the battle between the two, the hate early in their careers,” Marner said. “Still probably one of my favorite games of all time was back-to-back hats.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, whose Atlantic Division team will face the Metropolitan Division team of Crosby and Ovechkin in one of Saturday’s all-star semifinals, said the greats used a simple formula that is nearly impossible to duplicate in nearly two decades.
“They’re quite consistent,” Vasilevskiy said. “A great example for young guys. It’s not that difficult to play well for one or two seasons. But to play 10, 15 years at the top level is quite impressive.
“It’s about consistency.”
This may be one of the topics Crosby and Ovechkin discuss when both are done with a sport they’ve dominated.
“I’m pretty sure that when he and I retire, we’ll have a couple of beers together,” Ovechkin said. “Talk about the whole thing and what happened.”
And Crosby would like to chat?
“Oh yeah,” she replied with a smile. “We have a lot to make up for there.”
CROSBY TALK ABOUT BEDARD
The top pick in the 2005 NHL draft, like much of the hockey world, has been affected by the rise of Connor Bedard, who is widely expected to be No. 1 in June.
“He’s getting the other Connor’s attention,” Crosby said of McDavid. “He continues to meet expectations – they are high – but you see him play and you see what he can do.”
Crosby skated with Bedard, who dominated the recent World Junior Hockey Championship with a record-breaking performance that helped Canada win its 20th gold medal, in the summer and offered rave reviews.
“No weakness,” he said of the 17-year-old. “It’s pretty cool to see someone of that age as dominant as he is.”
Crosby said the confidence Bedard has in both his game and himself jumps off the page.
“He wants the challenge,” Crosby said. “When you’re in that position, sometimes it’s not easy. There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of eyes. Everyone is trying to disrupt your game or being critical of certain things.
“I think you appreciate it. It’s important to have it because it won’t get any easier.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 3, 2023.
Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press