Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky has certainly seen his fair share of NHL Trade Deadline Days in the past as a player, coach and owner and he joined the Hockey Central panel on Wednesday to discuss some of the comings and goings over recent days.
Gretzky also said he currently has no interest in returning to the National Hockey League right now after most recently serving as owner and coach of the Phoenix Coyotes.
“Not right now,” he said. “I truly love the game and everything I have in my life right now is because of hockey. I’ve got to travel around the world and meet some truly wonderful people.
“At this point in time I am just enjoying myself and I really haven’t talked to any team about it.”
He also served as executive director of Canada’s men’s hockey team for the 2002 and 2006 Olympics, but he also said he has no interest in returning to that role either, although he would help advise his replacement, Steve Yzerman, if asked.
There has been plenty of discussion over whether the NHL would allow its players to participate in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. For his part, Gretzky would like to see them play.
“Since 1972, we’ve never sent our best players over to Russia,” Gretzky explained. “I think the fans in Russia deserve to see Canada’s best and the United States’ best go and compete at a high level.”
He believes Sochi might be the last time that North American professionals play in the Olympics.
“Probably this could be the last Olympic Games that our guys go to because Korea in 2018, it’s just so difficult to fly all the way down there, stop the season for two-and-a-half weeks and come back and jump back into the regular season pace,” Gretzky said. “So maybe I am wrong but this could be one of the last times you see professional hockey players playing at the Olympic Games.”
The NHL’s all-time leading scorer was traded twice over his career with the second coming close to the deadline when the Los Angeles Kings sent him to the St. Louis Blues for a package of players and draft picks.
He compared the decision to the ones former and current Calgary Flames Miikka Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla had to make.
“Kiprusoff’s made more of a family decision on the basis of the fact that he didn’t want to move and didn’t want to leave the City of Calgary,” Gretzky said. “You know what? They are going to be a good team. It just takes some time. They are obviously reloading by moving Iginla and (Jay) Bouwmeester.”
But every player has to do what works best for them according to the Great One.
“Everybody’s different. For example, Morrow and Iginla, both guys probably had a hand in wanting to move on in their careers and get to another city and have a chance to win a Stanley Cup.”
Gretzky played 20 seasons in the NHL with Edmonton, Los Angeles, St Louis and the New York Rangers before moving on to join the Coyotes staff.
He said that deadline day is most difficult on the players.
“I think it was the hardest as a player because you are sort of uprooting your family,” Gretzky explained. “It’s late in the year, you’ve spent all season long with your teammates and all of the sudden you have to pack up and move to a different city.”
“From the management and the business side of things: the players are very intelligent. They know the scenario. The players know what’s going on and they know what you are trying to do. If you are trying to build a team for the future or if you are one of those teams that are buying guys to try and win a Stanley Cup so the players are pretty aware so if you communicate with the players on an ongoing basis, there’s really not a lot of surprises come trade deadline day.”