SUNRISE, Fla. — Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin said partnering with son Sergei and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby for an NHL All-Star skills event Friday night was a “special moment” for all three and the game of hockey.
Crosby, 35, and Ovechkin, 37, were a dual entry in the Breakaway Challenge trick-shot competition at FLA Live, home of the Florida Panthers.
They skated out to center ice together, where they were soon joined by 4-year-old Sergei Ovechkin, who had watched the event with his father near the benches while wearing an “Ovi Jr.” jersey. The trio skated together towards Hall of Famer Roberto Luongo, tending the goal for the event.
Crosby and Alex Ovechkin passed the puck to each other, with Sergei Ovechkin enthusiastically tapping his stick on the ice for a pass. His father eventually passed him the puck, he scored through a sprawling Luongo and then celebrated with the other NHL All-Stars watching from the benches.
The trio won the event with a perfect score of 40 points from the celebrity judges.
“It was very cool. Everybody enjoyed it. Obviously, Sergei was always smiling,” said Alex Ovechkin, who is 82 goals away from tying Wayne Gretzky’s NHL record (894). “That’s a special moment. It’s great for the game and great for both of us. And for Sergei as well.”
Crosby said that once he and Ovechkin decided to enter the Breakaway Challenge together, performing with Sergei Ovechkin was the first and only idea they had for the event.
“It was nice to have his son be a part of it and fun to share that moment,” Crosby said. “His son loves the game.”
The two NHL stars have been linked since entering the NHL as rookies in the 2005-06 season, eventually becoming the biggest player vs. player rivalry in hockey. Their teams won four times in the playoffs, with the Penguins winning three series. They battled for MVP honors, scoring titles and Olympic glory. That their personalities were so different — Crosby as a soft-spoken Canadian, Ovechkin as a brash Russian star — only created more of a juxtaposition between the stars.
Crosby said it doesn’t surprise him that he and Ovechkin have this kind of relationship 18 years into their storied careers.
“Before we ever played a game against each other, there was a rivalry.” Crosby said. “It was always set up that way. I think over time, you understand that it gets heated and intense on the ice. We both want to have success. But you appreciate you playing against each other for as long as it’s been. To still be in a tight playoff race against each other all these years later, to see what he’s doing, you just appreciate all that.”
The Penguins are three points behind the Capitals in the standings with four games in hand. Both teams occupy the final wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference.
Both Ovechkin and Crosby said they appreciated being the veteran stars with whom younger players at the All-Star Game were honored to share the ice.
“I would think if you asked him the same thing, he would tell you that when we were young players and there were older guys [in the All-Star Game]we felt the same way,” Crosby said. “Even though we’re a little older, we appreciate the opportunity to spend some time with guys.”
Said Ovechkin: “I remember when I was a little younger, we would share a bench with legends. Those were special moments.”