August 9, 2020

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When the Great One speaks, people listen... even years after his retirement

John Woods / The Canadian Press</p><p>Former Edmonton Oilers Dave Semenko, centre, and others listen in as captain Wayne Gretzky (99) leads a huddle during a practice for the NHL's Heritage Classic Alumni game in Winnipeg on Friday.</p>

John Woods / The Canadian Press

Former Edmonton Oilers Dave Semenko, centre, and others listen in as captain Wayne Gretzky (99) leads a huddle during a practice for the NHL's Heritage Classic Alumni game in Winnipeg on Friday.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/10/2016 (1388 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Great One still draws a crowd.

Wayne Gretzky, the NHL’s all-time scoring leader and still the game’s greatest ambassador, held court with a few dozen reporters following the Edmonton Oilers alumni squad practice Friday afternoon at MTS Centre.

Gretzky, just three months shy of his 56th birthday, said he rarely skates any more but is thrilled to be a part of the Oilers squad set to face the Jets alumni outdoors at Investors Group Field today.

Here’s more from No. 99:

What is he looking forward to most this weekend?

"Really, it’s an opportunity for all of us to get together. We have some great memories. It’s an opportunity to help promote the game of hockey in Winnipeg and throughout Canada. Our game will be more of a fun game. The real version Sunday should be a tremendous hockey game with two good, young teams."

What does he think of when he thinks of the Winnipeg Jets?

"I always think of Bobby Hull first, and then the big line (Hull, Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson). That big line was so influential on the success of the Oilers because Glen (Sather) wanted to build his team around Hedberg, Nilsson and Hull and he wanted an entire team like that. People thought he was crazy, that you couldn’t win a Stanley Cup like that.

"John Ferguson put together a very good organization. Unfortunately for the Jets, they had to go through the Oilers. We always had a great deal of respect for their team."

Is it special to play this type of an event?

"I don’t play a lot. I skate once a year. You never really find the energy, the enthusiasm to grab the equipment and go play pick-up hockey. When you play in the NHL, you play with the best players and it’s hard to go play Friday-night hockey... when the Jets asked me about this game... it was always fun to play in Winnipeg. I mean this sincerely, it’s always fun to come back, always fun to help people and be charitable, but don’t anticipate the hockey being wonderful (laughing)... we’re not that good any more."

Does he think the NHL will be part of the Winter Olympics again?

"I don’t know. That’s a question for the players and the (NHL) commissioner’s office. I don’t think there’s anything other than winning the Stanley Cups that’s any bigger than the Olympic Games. I hope we stay in it. I hope it works out."  

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

Read full biography

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