Wayne Gretzky believes the NHL can return to the ice in the next four to six weeks.
Gretzky joined Brady & Lang on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Tuesday and said the ongoing lockout has been very frustrating, but he remains positive and his gut feeling is that the players and owners can get a deal done by January.
"We want to see hockey. It’s frustrating," Gretzky told Brady & Lang. "My gut still tells me that over the next six weeks I think that they will get a deal done, and I think there’s too many people that want to play, and I still see hockey being played come January for a 40- or 50-game schedule. Let’s all try and stay positive.”
The Hall of Fame forward currently resides in California and says Los Angeles Kings fans are growing tired of the work stoppage as they are itching to see their first-ever Stanley Cup banner raised.
"I know here in California, it’s probably a little bit more frustrating here than anywhere else. They want to see the banner raised. They want to have that day where they celebrate that they were the Stanley Cup champions of the previous year. But unfortunately there’s a work stoppage," Gretzky said.
"The excitement level here is extremely high. The other side is this area, like San Jose, Phoenix, Dallas, are a little bit different than Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto, where every day hockey is on the front pages. So here we’re always fighting to get that equality. So they can try to be marketable as USC Trojans or UCLA Bruins or L.A. Lakers or Clippers. It’s always a concern. People are human and get disappointed and upset. You obviously come to a point where you will lose some fans."
Gretzky hopes cooler heads can prevail in the labour negotations and believes the league has potential to grow even more in the next decade.
"We’re going to go through some pains here. Hopefully over the next five to 10 years, we need more fans to enjoy our game and love the sport. It’s tough right now. No one likes to see a work stoppage. No one is happy," he said. "Hopefully cooler heads prevail and over the next four-to-six weeks, they can try and get a deal and try to win back our old fans and try to make some new fans."