The old expression “records are made to be broken’’ seems to be constantly applied to sports stars ranging from Babe Ruth to Jack Nicklaus to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
All those fine gentlemen had – or have – standards by which excellence is measured.
Some marks, such as Nicklaus’ 18 golf majors, may never be surpassed, although Tiger Woods has given it one heck of a try.
Hank Aaron zoomed past the Bambino’s 714 home run record more than 48 years ago, well before the steroids era.
And it looks like just a matter of time before Lebron James eclipses Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA No. 1 point total of 38,387.
Which brings us to ice hockey, where it was once thought Wayne “The Great One’’ Gretzky’s incredible goal total of 894 would never be approached.
On Friday night, Washington icon Alex Ovechkin scored career goal No. 786, tying him with Gordie “Mr. Hockey’’ Howe for the most goals ever amassed by a player with one team.
That leaves Ovechkin just 108 goals behind Gretzky. With the 37-year-old Ovechkin just in the second year of a five-year contract extension and coming off another 50-goal season, it would appear Gretzky’s record is in serious trouble.
However, it should be noted Gretzky also finished his career in 1999 with an amazing 2,857 points, which just happens to be 936 more than Jaromir Jagr’s runner-up 1,921 total.
Meanwhile, Ovechkin ranks only 19th on the alltime list at 1,420.
Gretzky’s 2,857 may stand for many generations to come.
All that said, both Gretzky and Ovechkin, also known as the “The Great 8’’ (his uniform number), will go down as two of the most accomplished players in hockey history.
Gordie’s son, Mark, happened to be in Detroit on Friday night when Ovechkin tied his father for most goals scored by a player with one team.
The younger Howe, considered the greatest defenseman in Flyers’ history, was in town to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Red Wings’ 1997 Stanley Cup win over the Flyers (see any irony there?) and was on hand to congratulate Ovechkin for his accomplishment.
When made aware of the milestone goal, Ovechkin sounded a bit humbled.
“It’s huge, obviously,’’ he said. “I played my whole career in Washington. Tied with a legend, It’s a pretty big number and it’s a pretty cool accomplishment.’’
Mark isn’t quite ready to put Ovechkin in Gretzky’s class as an all-around player, nor even in his father’s, for that matter.
“He’s a phenomenal goal-scorer,’’ Mark said. “Do I think he’s better than Gordie Howe? No, I think Gordie was a better overall player. But Ovechkin is as pure a goal-scorer as there is in the game.’’
Let’s not forget another eye-opening number: After Gordie finished his career with the Red Wings (1946-71), he switched to the World Hockey Association’s Houston Aeros (1973-77) and later the New England Whalers (1977-79) – plus one more year with the Whalers when they joined the NHL in 1979-80. Totals for those three stints: 121, 53 and 15.
If you total 786, 121, 53 and 15, you get 975 goals.
Imagine scoring 15 goals in the NHL in your 50s? It’s mind-boggling.
Ovechkin’s career is now in the spotlight as he chases Gretzky’s goal mark.
Mark Howe, for one, thinks breaking the record is inevitable.
“The Howe family, we wish you the best,’’ Mark said to Ovechkin. “Good luck. Keep going. Don’t stop.’’
That 894 is very likely to fall.
As for that 2,857?
It looks about as safe as Joe DiMaggio’s 56.
>Two looks at Giroux
As fun as it figured to be for the Flyers to play against their former captain, Claude Giroux, in Saturday night’s game at Ottawa, the excitement level should be even higher when Giroux returns to the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, Nov. 12 for the first time as an opposing player.
A special video highlighting Giroux’s career with the Flyers will be shown, and then, public address announcer Lou Nolan will introduce Giroux and invite fans to welcome him back to Philadelphia. This will all occur pre-game, so fans are encouraged to get to their seats early.
As for the first encounter in Canada, Giroux said he thought it might feel “weird’’ playing against his former teammates.
“It’s a little weird after being in Philly for so many years,” Giroux said after the club’s skate Friday at home. “Playing them for the first time is definitely different and I’m not sure what to expect after playing with those guys for a long time and then playing against them. It’s definitely weird.”
>Back in time
For Tuesday night’s home game against St. Louis, the Flyers will debut their brand-new Reverse Retro jerseys honoring the 1974 and 1975 Stanley Cup Championship teams.
The iconic Flyers crest will showcase dimensional embroidery treatment raising the outline around the front crest featuring a thin black outline surrounding the crest to match the original worn only in 1974. The jersey is remixed in an almost all white and black color palette, while slight accents of burnt orange pay homage to teams from the 1990’s. The current NHL Shield logo is also remixed in vintage orange and black colors.
Also returning for the first time since the Flyers’ 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons are Cooperalls, the infamous full-length black nylon pants with an orange stripe down each leg. The ‘80s era pants will be worn by players during warmups only when the team wears the Reverse Retro jerseys.