Wayne Gretzky on his new book: 'I just want people to realize how great hockey is'

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Gretzky talks greatness — from Howe to McDavid

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To mark the 99th anniversary of the National Hockey League, Edmonton’s favourite former Oiler and hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, along with co-author Kirstie McLellan Day, penned a memoir of Canada’s game. Gretzky spoke with Postmedia reporter Juris Graney about his book, 99: Stories of the Game, and the game he loves so much. (The interview has been edited for clarity and length.)

Your family is so imperative to your life and pretty much every professional hockey player, to the man, always has the support with time, energy and commitment from parents and grandparents. This is a book about the great things of the National Hockey League and part of those great things are the people in it. Without them, as most players would say, they wouldn’t be in the league.

This was just an opportunity for me to write about how wonderful and beautiful this game truly is. I just want people to realize how great of a game hockey is.

(Laughter) Periodically I would send him a pair of skates he could keep. Look, the skates were so different back then and the leather was hard to break in and once you broke them in, you wanted those skates to last forever. I would put my skates on barefoot and sit in the hot tub with them for 20 minutes, then I’d walk around the locker room for another 15 minutes as they soaked to my feet and then I’d send them to John for two to three weeks because in college hockey they’d practice five days a week for two hours a day. Then he’d send them back to me and I’d wear them for a couple of months in practice and they’d be ready to go. 

Any time you walked into Maple Leaf Gardens or onto the ice at Montreal Forum, it was overwhelming because that’s what you watched on Hockey Night in Canada growing up as a kid. The arenas were all so sacred and I had so much enjoyment playing in every one of them and yeah, when Maple Leaf Gardens closed down, that’s when it hit me that some of the greatest parts of the history of our game are going by the wayside. But the reality is you’ve got to change in life and you’ve got to move with the flow and if you don’t, you get left behind. The sport has changed, it’s a bigger sport now and a bigger business and the buildings are newer and comfortable and maybe 30 years from now those new arenas are going to have their own history.

We all have the same role. The game was good to us whether you were Gordie Howe or Wayne Gretzky or anyone else. It was a privilege and honour to play the game and the thing that I love about the new young players in the game, not only are they talented and work, they are very respectful of the game of itself and the league and that’s what we need. We all have a responsibility to the game because the game was good to us.

(Laughter) Well, after this little tour I will be. I went Edmonton, L.A., New York, Toronto, New York, Winnipeg and Edmonton. So yeah, I’m looking forward to a few days watching the games on TV and having a break.

jgraney@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jurisgraney

photo Wayne Gretzky on his new book: 'I just want people to realize how great hockey is' images

photo of Wayne Gretzky on his new book: 'I just want people to realize how great hockey is'

Article Wayne Gretzky on his new book: 'I just want people to realize how great hockey is' compiled by www.msn.com

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