Washington, D.C. - Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was awarded the prestigious Wayne Gretzky International Award as part of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Celebration on Dec. 12 at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C.
The award, established by the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999, pays tribute to international individuals who have made major contributions to the growth and advancement of hockey in the United States.
Thanks to Ovechkin's efforts to better hockey in and around the D.C. area, participation and interest in the sport throughout the region has surged. Prior to his arrival in 2005, the number of players within the District of Columbia was just short of 400, and today that number has risen to nearly 1,500. Across Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, the number of players has nearly doubled in that time frame from 13,923 to more than 22,500.
Since Ovechkin's draft year (2003-04), youth participation has grown by 221% - termed 'The Ovechkin Effect," and there are now 40 ice facilities in the Washington, D.C., region with a total of 53 sheets of ice.
Among Ovechkin's many contributions to the sport is his commitment to cultivating and promoting a passion for hockey in youth players throughout the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
Ovechkin recently hosted American Special Hockey Association players for a hockey event for the sixth-consecutive season. When Ovechkin hosted the first American Special Hockey Association skate in 2014 there were 50 programs across 30 cities. ASHA continues to grow and now includes 96 programs. By the end of the season, there will be more than 100 programs in more than 90 cities across the United States.
Video: Ovechkin ASHA Skate 2019
In addition to his relationship with ASHA, Ovechkin launched Ovi's Crazy 8's in 2006 to provide underserved children with tickets to a Capitals game. Since then, more than 5,000 individuals have had a chance to see a game free of charge.
"I'm honored to receive this award," said Ovechkin. "But this award should go to our entire organization for their hard work in growing hockey in our area. I'm proud to have a small part in the growth of hockey in DC, but our organization does so much every day to get young kids to play hockey and I'm always appreciative of that."
Born in Moscow, Russia, Ovechkin has spent the entirety of his NHL career with the Washington Capitals after being drafted by the club with the first overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft. In his first season, Ovechkin won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league's Rookie of the Year after tallying 52 goals, 54 assists and 106 points. Entering his 15th season in the league, Ovechkin has amassed over 1,200 points in 1,084 contests, good for 45th on the NHL's all-time scoring list, and has been the recipient of 16 more individual league honors, including eight Maurice Richard Trophies, three Ted Lindsay Awards and the Conn Smythe Trophy following the Capitals' Stanley Cup championship in the 2017-18 season.
Ovechkin holds numerous league records, including becoming the first player to win the Art Ross Trophy, Maurice Richard Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Award and Hart Memorial Trophy in a single season, winning all four accolades during the 2007-08 season. He also became just the 20th skater in league history to score 600 career goals and holds the record for most NHL goal-scoring titles with eight, most recently in 2019.