At an event where Wayne Gretzky was named Ambassador of the 2019 Invesco QQQ Championship for the PGA Tour of Champions at Sherwood Country Club, I was lucky enough to have some one-on-one time with The Great One. The Hall of Famer was kind enough to share his insights on the upcoming NHL season. (Listen to the Audio Above)
Wayne Gretzky on Missing Hockey:
"People ask me all the time if I miss hockey. I always look at them puzzled and say, 'Of course I miss it.' I wish I could play, but unfortunately, father time catches up with you as a professional athlete, but it doesn't mean I don't miss it. I would kill to be able to play again. It's an exciting time. I'm such a huge baseball fan. I always love this time of year because it's baseball playoffs and it's the start of the (NHL) regular season. Other than getting ready for the Stanley Cup finals, that first game is always so exciting as an NHL player."
"It's an exciting week, and with the salary cap era, and with parity, we have now in hockey, every team is now afforded the opportunity to be successful. We've proven over the years now that of the top 8 teams if you get in 8th place, you can still win the Stanley Cup so that's what makes our sport so great."
Wayne Gretzky on what needs to be done with the LA Kings:
"To win two championships in two years is difficult in the salary cap era. With that, you build your team around certain players. They have a goaltender in Jonathan Quick, one of the best defensemen in hockey in Drew Doughty, one of the great 2-way centers in the game in Anže Kopitar and a great leader in Dustin Brown. They've got the four core guys that we're a part of their championship teams. With that, here comes the salary cap and you have to move some guys out and move some younger guys in to get some youth, speed, and size. It looks like they've done that...I think they're gonna be better this year than people anticipate."
Wayne Gretzky elaborates further on missing the game:
"When I retired, I had said I loved everything about the game of hockey. I loved the practice; I loved driving in the bus with the guys. I loved going out to dinner with the guys, I loved really big wins...Even sometimes enjoyed those tough losses and sticking together through it and having a good practice."
Wayne Gretzky on whether parity today is better or Gretzky's era of dominance in the past:
"The parity is better than having a dynasty winning four years in a row, and then another team winning five years in a row. Even with my success, parity gives everybody a hope whether you're in Florida, California, Quebec, British Columbia, or Minnesota. There's this hope that our team can be champions. I think the game is in a better place today because of that. Also, the athletes today are better, and the coaching has more preparation and knowledge. The doctors have more knowledge to deal with the physical side of the game in dealing with concussions. Everything about our sport has grown so much, and it's such a better place today than it was 20 years ago."
The NHL season officially kicks off today. Check out Fox Sports NHL for the latest news schedule of games!