Wayne Gretzky couldn’t be happier with the state of the National Hockey League.
The Hall of Fame centre sat down with HOCKEY CENTRAL’s Christine Simpson for an interview to discuss the trending issues in the hockey world.
“It’s a better game now than when I played. The players are better. They’re bigger and faster. It’s gotten to another level,” Gretzky said.
He didn’t want to get into the issue of fighting and said it’s up to the players to solve the recurring problem. The legendary centre said it would be unfair for him to state his opinion on the matter. He likes how new NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan’s group has been handling the issue.
“They want to take the dirty part of the game out. We can’t afford to have the best players not playing. It’s too important to have (Sidney) Crosby on the ice. It’s too important to have (Alex) Ovechkin, and (Steven) Stamkos,” Gretzky stated.
Gretzky is enjoying his time as a fan but clearly misses the intensity and passion that came from playing and coaching in the NHL.
“Right now I’m at a good place in my life and I’m enjoying what I’m doing. Right now, I just really enjoy being a fan. I miss the routine of being in the National Hockey League. You can’t replace that. Everything I have in my life is because of hockey. There’s nothing that replaces that. The stress level is the one part I don’t miss.”
The Great One still loves watching hockey, and stays in touch with several of the friends he made during his time in the NHL. Gretzky refers to himself as a fan, and cheers for the team’s he played on during his professional career.
“I basically pull for the team’s I played for. (John) Davidson in St. Louis. Although I wasn’t there long, but I still pull for them. I’m good friends with Dean Lombardi and and I hope they (Los Angeles Kings) do well. They always said; once an Oiler, always an Oiler. I always watch them and root for them. Obviously with my relationship with Glen (Sather), I watch the Rangers and root for them. So I live through those four teams,” Gretzky explained.
He says he pays extra attention to the team he was most successful with, the Edmonton Oilers. He loves the group of young players the team has assembled and says the group reminds of him the teams he played on early in his career.
“It’s exciting. All three are really nice young men. I really enjoy watching them play. They’re in the right scenario with Kevin (Lowe) and Daryl Katz. They got a really a strong head coach, who has a good staff. They’re in a pretty ideal situation. With that, because of guys like (Paul) Coffey, (Mark) Messier, and myself, the fans will be patient as well,” Gretzky said.
Gretzky says the NHL continues to progress as a league, which included bring back the Winnipeg Jets. He also sees the league adding another Canadian team in the near future.
“I anticipate and expect around the corner we’ll see Quebec City in the National Hockey League. I don’t know when but I just got a feeling they’ll be back.”