‘GR8TNESS’ Review: A Unique Perspective On Ovechkin & Life Of A Legend
ESPN’s “GR8TNESS” documentary offers a unique — and at times, chilling — perspective on Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin that captures the life of a legend and the pressures that come with it.
"What's it to score a goal in the National Hockey League?" ESPN analyst and former NHL goaltender Kevin Weekes asks Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin on Jan. 15, 2023.
It's the first question of an hour-long documentary on Ovechkin, fittingly titled "GR8TNESS," that offers perhaps the deepest dive into the life of the legend yet.
In a good way, it's chilling as it explores the ups and downs and pressures of a historic career, and emotional and uplifting as it visits Ovechkin's milestones and accomplishments both on and off the ice while offering an authentic, genuine and emotional look at one of the greatest goal scorers to ever lace 'em up.
Ovechkin, now 37, has changed both on and off the ice since his rookie days when his reckless style and scoring prowess took the NHL by storm and rang in a new generation of hockey. "GR8TNESS" finds a unique balance between the present and the past while also intertwining the two.
Of course, there are glimpses into the future and what's next for Ovechkin as he chases Wayne Gretzky and sits just 83 goals away from breaking his all-time goals record. However, it doesn't linger too much on that concept, as Ovechkin comfortably elects — and in a way, prefers — to keep that as the "elephant in the room."
The documentary starts off with highlights of Ovechkin's star-studded career and life from his point of view. Ovechkin explains to Weekes that every time is a "great feeling" and offers a statement that raises goosebumps: "If it hits the goalie, he's lucky. If I hit the empty spot, it's in."
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There's then a shift in time, a journey through Ovechkin's career and different milestones. It has a steady flow to it, as it first touches on a young Ovechkin who has yet to enter the NHL but is the consensus No. 1 pick and highly-touted prospect expected to turn around a struggling franchise in the Capitals. And he does just that.
From his first goal to his 32nd goal — dubbed "The Goal" against the Arizona Coyotes — Weekes revisits each milestone with a sentimental Ovechkin. Perhaps even more special are the other voices that offer their perspective, including his wife, Nastya, his teammates in Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov and other NHLers like Auston Matthews, who was just a young fan sitting in the stands when he watched Ovechkin pull off that historic tally and Sidney Crosby. And then, there's the Great One, who shows admiration for the man who's likely to shatter his record in the coming years.
"GR8TNESS" doesn't just go through Ovechkin's milestones, though, nor does it waste time going over the ones that every NHL fan knows about. Instead, Weekes and the ESPN crew offer a unique perspective on Ovechkin, the person. There's the discussion about his flashy style, which featured his now-banned mirrored visor and famous yellow races, and rebellious play and boisterous celebrations that didn't please the likes of Martin Brodeur and Don Cherry, who famously once promised, "Somebody's gonna get him, and somebody's gonna get him good."
Along with criticisms, ones that, to this day, Ovechkin doesn't give much thought to, also revisits the long-time rivalry with now "good friend" Sidney Crosby, and his path to a championship that took a toll on him and added a bit of a question mark to what his legacy would be for years until he finally captured the Stanley Cup in 2018.
Looking back at those memories, Ovechkin doesn't shy away and levels completely with Weekes in a way he hasn't done in a long time.
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In addition to the early days of Ovechkin, the documentary details more about the Russian and his "craft" of scoring, going in-depth about his sticks and gear while also showcasing his ever-growing stick collection, which finally — after his first Stanley Cup and hitting 700 goals — features one from No. 99.
Fittingly, the documentary closes with Ovechkin's 802nd goal to move past Gordie Howe, insight into who he is as a father and finally, his pursuit of 895. Asked if he's more confident now that he's going to catch it, "The Great Eight" says no. But as he mentioned earlier, he's not done yet.
While everyone else, from Backstrom to Crosby, to Gretzky himself says he'll make a run for the record and likely break it, Ovechkin offers this statement:
"It's great to be in this kind of position," Ovechkin said, but added, "What if, you know?"
The documentary is available to watch on ESPN+ now and will be reaired on ESPNews and ESPN 2.