The Boston Bruins return from their break to host Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Saturday afternoon (3:30 PM ET, ABC, ESPN+). With Ovechkin in town to continue his pursuit of surpassing Wayne Gretzky as the greatest goal-scorer ever, the future hall of famer was the topic in Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery’s daily media briefing, and it turned out that 2022 Jack Adams candidate got a an up-close look at Alexander Ovechkin during his time playing in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia.
“I remember we were in a game at home. I don’t really remember the score. I think we won 3-2 or 4-2. And he got into an argument with our fans,” Jim Montgomery recalled Friday. “I remember him slashing at the glass. The fans were reaching out — it was the short glass — and they pulled on his jersey or something. I remember him turning around and it was like, ‘Oh, he’s got a temper.’”
The then-34-year-old Montgomery was playing for Salavat Yulaev Ufa in the 2003-04 season and Ovechkin was already a three-year veteran at age 17 and playing for Dynamo Moscow. Alexander Ovechkin would go on to be taken first overall at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, and now 1,326 games into a hall of fame career, the 37-year-old captain of the Washington Capitals is within striking distance of surpassing Gretzky’s record of 894 goals with 812 lamplighters and counting.
“They were saying this was the greatest young player in Russia right now. Like he’s the next [Pavel] Bure, they were saying,” Montgomery said, adding that he couldn’t believe how big Ovechkin already was at that age and calling him a “man-child.”
Now Alexander Ovechkin is arguably the best Russian player to ever play in the NHL.
“I guess his greatness and the longevity,” Montgomery said when asked what stands out to him about this chase. “Like, you think he’d be slowing down. He’s not slowing down. It’s amazing. His dedication to his craft, how special he is at what he does. It’s really impressive to witness. It’s not often you’re in an era where you see someone chasing Wayne Gretzky. I never thought someone would chase Wayne Gretzky’s records, and here we are. That’s a tribute to him.”