Wayne Gretzky played in just 18 regular season games for the St. Louis Blues in his 20 year career and scored just 8 of his 894 career goals while with the Blues and 13 of his 1,963 career assists. He also appeared in 13 playoff games during the ’95-’96 season. Yet, Gretzky comes back to St. Louis quite often and was excited to participate in Saturday’s Alumni game between Blues and Chicago Blackhawks greats.
The Blues won a spirited game 8-7 in front of 40,000 fans in attendance. After the game, The Great One spoke of the importance of the NHL playing outdoor games.
Below is a transcript from Gretzky’s Q & A on Saturday.
Q. Mr. Gretzky, you haven’t played for the Blues for quite a while. It had been only a short time you had played for them. Did you have a chance to reconnect with some of those guys over the past couple of days? What was that whole experience like for you?
WAYNE GRETZKY: Well, listen, over the years you develop a lot of relationships and friendships. And for me I’m kind of in a unique situation in that I come into town quite often. I spend a lot of time here. So when I’m here I see a lot of the guys. When I get a chance to be around the guys who live here full time and that I see quite a bit. But for this event, players that came in from out of town that live in other cities, to be here and to be part of it and get a chance to spend time together and just talk about hockey and talk about families and kids and the game itself, you know, it’s just fun. And it was — it’s such a great rivalry between the Hawks and the Blues that it’s only fitting that they square off in this game in St. Louis. And I don’t think there’s a better opponent for the Blues and for the fans than the Blackhawks. So I anticipate the game to be pretty spirited, pretty solid, good hockey game. And I think the fans will really enjoy it come the big game.
Q. When you talk about family, does this take — how much does this take you back to Canada and your youth? We hear the legendary stories about how you got emotional. You didn’t want to stop practicing, what’s it like on an outdoor rink for you?
WAYNE GRETZKY: I would say most of the guys who played today kind of grew up in that era where we grew up in outdoor rinks and ponds and frozen lakes and backyards. Guy like Brett Hull, myself and Tkachuk. That’s how we started playing the game of hockey. We weren’t thrown into beautiful, warm, artificial-ice arenas when we were kids; we were thrown out to the 30- below-zero and wearing a toque and a scarf and freezing and our hands numb and our feet numb when we came in. That’s what’s wonderful and what makes the game great. And each and every person to a tee was the exact way. We all love it. It’s changed in the sense that it’s become not just a winter sport. One of the proudest days I had as a professional player was being part of the outdoor game in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium to see 60-degree weather and people there enjoying the game and 60,000 people at a game like that just shows you how far the game has come. So we’re an all-weather sport. We can play when it’s warm. We can play when it’s cold. But obviously we grew up playing on those outdoor rinks.
Q. Wayne, just overall, what do you think of all the outdoor games that the league has had and continues to…
WAYNE GRETZKY: I’ve said this before, I really like them. I think they’re good for the game. I like the fact that we spread them out a little bit. St. Louis is getting a game. LA got a game in Dodger Stadium. San Jose got a game. I think it’s really positive for the game. It shows how big our sport is getting and it excites the people in those cities to have those games and host those games. They want to put on a show. In some ways it’s taken over sort of the, I guess, the character of the All-Star Game. Used to be the All-Star Game was one, two days of the year where everybody in that city and everybody rallied around. And it was a pretty good hockey game in those days. Obviously the game’s changed. And three-onthree game now. So in a lot of ways this outdoor game signifies a change in our game. And that’s the way life is. There’s changes that go with life and parenting is different today than it was 30 years ago.