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Capitals’ latest celebration of Alex Ovechkin was their most elaborate yet

Alex Ovechkin is embraced by Washington Capitals teammate T.J. Oshie during Tuesday's pregame ceremony at Capital One Arena. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
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Early in the season, with Alex Ovechkin closing in on 800 goals, members of the Washington Capitals’ front office began brainstorming ways to celebrate his latest milestone. One of the people they talked to was Aaron Logan, founder of Logan Sports Group, the Ontario-based company that has produced hundreds of commemorative items — including a gold stick to mark Ovechkin’s 500th goal in 2016 — for NHL teams over the years. Logan and the Capitals agreed that 800 — a number only Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky had eclipsed — called for something bigger.

They settled on a 69-pound bronze trophy featuring the No. 800 and the blade of a hockey stick above the Capitals’ screaming eagle logo, which Ovechkin wore on his chest when he made his NHL debut in 2005 and when he passed Howe with his 802nd goal Dec. 23 to become the league’s second-leading goal scorer. The stick, fabricated with the same curve and pattern as the one Ovechkin uses to blister one-timers past goalies, is engraved with a congratulatory message from the team.

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“This is our biggest award, and I think it deserves a guy like Alex,” Logan said of the trophy, which took 36 hours to make from design machining to polishing and assembly, weighs as much as two Stanley Cups and was one of several gifts bestowed upon Ovechkin during an elaborate pregame ceremony ahead of Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. “It’s appropriate.”

Logan, who had to temporarily remove the packaging from the trophy’s case to satisfy Air Canada’s 70-pound weight limit for checked baggage when he delivered the piece to the Capitals on Monday, also created a pair of 21-inch bronze mini sticks for Ovechkin’s sons, Sergei and Ilya, who were on the ice Tuesday alongside Ovechkin’s mother, Tatyana, wife, Nastya, and brother, Mikhail.

“Alex has reached so many significant milestones throughout his career, and each time we strive to find different and unique ways to celebrate his achievements,” Sergey Kocharov, the Capitals’ senior vice president of communications and broadcasting, said of Tuesday’s festivities, which were emceed by NBC Sports Washington play-by-play man Joe Beninati and took months of planning.

The ceremony opened with a tribute video narrated by Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom that highlighted Howe’s legendary career and Ovechkin’s pursuit of Gretzky’s record of 894 goals, once considered unbreakable.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly presented Ovechkin a Tiffany crystal commemorating his becoming the third player to score 800 goals. T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson gave the Capitals’ captain a custom necklace designed by Chase Gregory Jewelers and presented Tatyana and Nastya bouquets.

Ovechkin added another stick to his impressive memorabilia collection, courtesy of the NHL Players’ Association. Autographed by the former Soviet Union national team, the stick was originally given to Howe during the Red Machine’s 1974 Summit Series against Canada. It’s housed in a custom display case along with the Team Canada puck Howe scored for his first goal of the exhibition. Both items were part of the Howe family archives and previously were displayed at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

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“The Howe family has been top notch in their support of Alex throughout the whole season, and I know that Alex and our entire organization are incredibly appreciative of that,” Kocharov said.

Mark Howe, Gordie’s son, participated in the ceremony. He and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis unveiled a painting by Canadian artist Tony Harris depicting Ovechkin and “Mr. Hockey,” who died at 88 in 2016.

The Capitals debuted an “Ovi Throne” made of 802 pucks outside Sections 114 and 115 and gave out Ovechkin goal counter bobbleheads to everyone in attendance. Before the game, 200 season ticket holders lined the hallways leading to the Capitals’ dressing room as Ovechkin arrived at the arena, followed by his teammates, who sported Ovechkin T-shirts. Every Capitals player wore an Ovechkin No. 8 jersey during pregame warmups, and the sweaters will be auctioned off to benefit the MSE Foundation.

“These are not only the players’ achievements, but it is about the fans and letting them applaud certain moments in time,” said Logan, who has already started thinking about ways to commemorate Ovechkin potentially passing Gretzky. “The gifts are great, but I think fans really enjoy being at these events, because milestones are important.”

Ovechkin recorded another milestone with a first-period tally that gave him his 13th 40-goal season, breaking a tie with Gretzky for the most in NHL history. Afterward, the 37-year-old expressed appreciation for the ceremony and disappointment that his team couldn’t cap the night with a win.

“Tonight was special day for me, for the whole organization, for fans,” Ovechkin said. “And, unfortunately, we lost.”