Sports

Alex Ovechkin the latest NHL superstar to launch an NFT

One of the NHL’s biggest stars, Alexander Ovechkin, is launching an NFT collection.

The longtime Washington Capitals captain signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract on Tuesday to remain with the Caps until he reaches age 40. The Russian superstar was inspired by other major athletes who have dabbled in the digital collectible space.

“I first talk about it with my team after some of the NFL guys did it, and I think it’s cool idea and wanted to try it.,” Ovechkin told ESPN through Ethernity, the company that is releasing the Ovechkin NFTs. “It’s a huge opportunity for players to try something different and the fans love it, so why not!?”

Though some marquee athlete NFT drops have generated millions, such as Rob Gronkowski ($1.8 million) and Patrick Mahomes ($3.4 million), hockey-related NFT drops have typically seen five- to six-figure returns.

Back in March, Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk was the first NHL player to release an NFT, which sold for $27,954. One of the rising superstars in the game, Toronto Maple Leafs goal-scoring champ Auston Matthews, released NFTs in April which generated close to $200,000, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity.

Ovechkin says he appreciates the staying power of a digital collectible.

“I think digital collection is kind of cool. For lots of years I sign and take pictures with fans, and when I understand the digital art can last forever, I think fans would really like it.”

Ovechkin was hands on during the creative process of making the NFT design, and wanted something that “fans will be like, ‘Wow — how did they do that?'”

The NFT is a collaboration between Ovechkin, Ethernity and Impossible Brief, who worked on the creative NFT concepts for Mahomes and San Diego Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr.

“Ovechkin is one of the greatest players of all time, and we are excited to bring this coveted one-of-a-kind experience to collectors worldwide.” said Ethernity CEO Nick Rose.

Though it has seemingly cooled lately as compared to several months ago, the NFT space is still generating a lot of interest from athletes and leagues in sports. The NHL, as well as other major sports leagues, have been exploring the NFT space, particularly after seeing the success of NBA Top Shot. Many NHL teams around the league are following suit — some have already conducted drops, such as the New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, and Ovechkin’s Capitals. Caps owner Ted Leonsis said in March regarding cryptocurrencies and NFTs: “This is like the birth of a new internet. … This is that significant.”

Ovechkin wouldn’t confirm that more NFT drops would come beyond this one, but the success of this drop will influence whether he decides to create more. When asked if he would create a NFT if he broke Wayne Gretzky’s goal-scoring record — Ovi is currently at 730 career NHL goals, sixth on the all time list, while Gretzky leads the list with 894 — Ovechkin laughed and said, “We will see if that is going to happen in the future!”

Ovechkin feels that many more NHL players, past and present, will be interested in launching NFTs. “I think lots of players are going to try to do NFT. Maybe I will do one with Backy (Capitals teammate Nicklas Backstrom), and from the history, maybe Wayne Gretzky or Maurice Richard.”

Ovechkin’s NFT drop will take place on August 8 at 1 p.m. ET at ethernity.io. The auction will be available for 72 hours.

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