Wayne Gretzky, seen holding the Stanley Cup in 1987, holds the league record for the most career goals, with 894. The Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin is chasing that record. Ovechkin has 640 as of Tuesday. (Larry MacDougal/AP)

Today’s sports question is: Can Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals catch Wayne Gretzky for the most career goals in the National Hockey League (NHL)?

Of course, some KidsPost readers may be asking, “Who is Wayne Gretzky?”

Gretzky is probably the greatest player to lace up skates in the history of the NHL. He played for four teams from 1979 to 1999 and put up incredible career numbers. Let’s look at some of them.

Gretzky played on four Stanley Cup champion teams. He also scored 894 career goals — that’s the record that Ovechkin is chasing. But Gretzky was even better at passing to his teammates so they could score the goals. Gretzky had an unbelievable 1,963 assists during his career. No other NHL player is within 700 assists of that record.

One more eye-popping Gretzky statistic. He is the only NHL player to score 200 points — that’s goals plus assists — in a season, and he did it four times. No wonder they called him “the Great One.”

So if Ovechkin can beat Gretzky’s record for career goals, he would be passing an all-time superstar.


Ovechkin, right, is known as “the Great 8” because he wears number 8. Gretzky, who may be the best player to skate in the NHL, was known as “the Great One.” (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Can “the Great 8” do it? This is a math problem, so grab a pencil and some paper and let’s work out the numbers.

Following the Capitals’ 7-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, Ovechkin has 33 goals for this season and 640 career goals.

If he scores 50 goals this season — and that may be low — he would have 657 career goals. So he would need to score 237 goals (894 minus 657) to catch Gretzky. That seems like a lot of goals, especially because Ovechkin is getting older (he’s 33 years old), and it’s harder to play hockey as you get older.

But remember, Ovechkin is really good at scoring goals. He has averaged almost 50 goals a season since he joined the Caps in 2005.

Let’s say Ovechkin scores 40 goals for the next two seasons — and, again, he could score more — then scores 35 goals in the two following seasons. That would be 150 more goals over four years. He would have 807 total career goals. That’s only 87 goals away from Gretzky’s record.

But Ovechkin would be 37 years old by then. That’s getting old for a hockey player — Gretzky was 38 in his final NHL season.

Still, some hockey players play into their 40s. Maybe Ovechkin, who won his first Stanley Cup last season, will be one of them.

All I’m saying is that a sports record — Gretzky’s 894 career goals — that seemed unreachable may, with a little luck, be broken.

Maybe the Great 8 will pass the Great One.