Hockey’s The Great One takes questions from fans during his visit in Charlottetown
© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Former NHL great Wayne Gretzky gestures as he speaks Tuesday in Charlottetown.
Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky was in Charlottetown Tuesday for a fundraiser for Camp Red Fox, a camp for children living with Type 1 diabetes in Canoe Cove.
He took questions from the crowd during the session. Here are some of what he was asked and The Great One’s responses:
Q: What was your most memorable moment in the NHL?
A: First time he lifted the Stanley Cup after winning it with the Edmonton Oilers in 1984.
Q: Who was your favourite player growing up?
A: Gordie Howe. “When I met Gordie Howe he was bigger and better and nicer than I could ever had imagined.”
Q: Who was your least favourite player to play against?
A: “Guys that I hated to play against were the guys I wanted on my team the most.”
He included players like Ulf Samuelsson, Esa Tikkanen and Denis Potvin in that group.
“He was . . . (a) tremendous teammate. He was unselfish. His body was beat up every single night. He would do anything to win,” Gretzky said of Samuelsson.
Q: Who are players you played with or coached that exemplified leadership?
A: “The one thing the leaders I know all have in common is professionalism.”
Gretzky named players like Larry Robinson, Mark Messier and Bobby Clarke as leaders while quiet players like Mike Bossy and Mario Lemieux were leaders in their own ways.
“A leader doesn’t haven’t to be a guy who stands up and wants to get recognized and does it for attention. Leadership comes in all different forms and ways. Ultimately, to me, the best leaders are the guys who play under pressure and the guys who produce when everything is on the line.”
Q: Can we afford a lockout and how long do you think we may go?
A: “I don’t have the answers because I am not involved day to day. Speaking as a person sort of on the outside, a fan like everyone else, the game of hockey is so big, we’ll always come back. We’re always going to want to watch it. Our kids play it, our grandchildren play it, girls, boys we love the game . . .
“This is just my opinion, the 2004 scenario is so different because the business model of the league was going to completely change. We went from no salary cap to a complete salary cap. In saying that, my personal opinion is we’re closer to getting a deal done at this point in time than I think we were in 2004. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I really believe that somehow, someway they’ll figure out a way to get a deal done and I don’t see us missing as many games as we did in 2004.”
Q: If the NHL season is played, who do you consider the favourites?
A: “I always say the same thing, until a team beats the Stanley Cup champion they deserve to be the favourite. In saying that, I like Pittsburgh with a healthy (Sidney) Crosby. I love the fact the Rangers are a very good team and coming back off a tough loss in the playoffs, but I like their team. I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of surprises this year.”
Wayne Gretzky was in Russia this week having dinner with former players, including his former teammate and friend Brett Hull. The discussion turned to Gretzky scoring 92 goals in 1981-82, which still stands as a single-season record. Hull, a well-known sniper in his day, said he didn’t get any empty-net goals during his 86-goal campaign in 1990-91 while The Great One had 11 in 1981-82.
There was a pause as the players waited to see how Gretzky would respond.
“I can’t help it if you’re not good enough to play in the last minute,” Gretzky said Tuesday to round of laughs.