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Alex Ovechkin’s stick collection keeps growing, one landmark goal at a time

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is chasing Wayne Gretzky’s record. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
4 min

For every goal that Alex Ovechkin scores this season in his pursuit of Wayne Gretzky’s NHL record, there is a milestone piece of memorabilia the Washington Capitals’ 36-year-old captain collects along the way: his stick.

Ovechkin is keeping and storing every stick he uses to light the lamp this season. They won’t go to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto or to the team collection at Capital One Arena. They’re not to be given out as gifts. These sticks are his to keep.

Ovechkin has a memorabilia collection that spans two continents and includes no small amount of sticks. And as he gets closer to Gretzky’s mark of 894 goals, Ovechkin, now tied with Brett Hull for fourth at 741, is putting even more value on the tools he is using to chase down the Great One.

“It is going to be pretty cool to have those sticks for my kids, grandkids,” Ovechkin said.

Ovechkin has an NHL-best 11 goals in the Capitals’ first 12 games, and each tally has essentially retired the stick used to generate the goal. Once he scores, the stick is put aside and marked with the career goal number he scored while using it.

He sits 25 behind Jaromir Jagr for third on the all-time list. Given his hot start, he will probably crack the top three by season’s end.

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Ovechkin said he started valuing sticks as a child. He would go to games and ask players for sticks as keepsakes. Even now, he still asks other players — current and former — for game-used sticks.

Yes, he has one from Gretzky, whose hallowed mark is now a target. He also has one from Mario Lemieux — it was the first stick Ovechkin received in his rookie year, starting his collection. One of Ovechkin’s newest additions will be a stick from Hull. Ovechkin has been asking each player he passes on the all-time list for a signed stick.

Ovechkin said he would like to open a museum back home in Russia that would be full of his hockey mementos.

“People here can see NHL live,” Ovechkin said. “But over there it is pretty hard, so I figure it is going to be pretty cool to bring [the memorabilia] all the way and do it over there.”

His favorite sticks? It’s a tough call.

In addition to the stick from Lemieux, he has one from his rookie season — an old CCM, he says — that Mark Messier signed for him in New York. There was also the stick he used to score his 50th goal of the season during the 2008-09 campaign. His subsequent “hot stick” celebration became famous: He put his stick on the ice and fanned his gloves over it.

Also in consideration are the sticks with which he scored goals Nos. 500, 600 and 700. But where are all the latest sticks in the collection being stored?

A lot of them are in Ovechkin’s basement, in a room with mirrored walls. The sticks are carefully lined up, one by one. He said he brings one to two sticks home after every game.

“It is pretty cool to have it when people come to my house,” Ovechkin said of his collection. “They look and say, ‘Wow, this is pretty incredible.’ ”

Ovechkin said his sons, Sergei and Ilya, love the stick collection. His wife, Nastya? She’s a little less enthusiastic about the estimated 200 sticks in his basement.

A major reason Ovechkin, who recently hauled some of the collection to a photo shoot, keeps his sticks is for his kids to remember his career. He wants them to be able to look back and see the memories — even if they might not recall them.

“I have probably like eight sticks from different players, so I bring it, and Sergei saw it and was like: ‘Oh, Daddy, new sticks? For me?’ ” Ovechkin recalled Wednesday. “And I was like: ‘No. When you are grown up, it is going to be for you.’ ”

Until then, the collection keeps growing — one goal, one stick and one memory at a time.