Interview s Waynem Gretzkym

19. května 2007 v 13:05 | Filip ( admin ) |  Interview s Waynem Gretzkym ( EN )
How much did you miss hockey during the lockout?
Professionally, as an athlete, it was the worst year of my life. I played hockey since I was two years old, and then, when I retired, I still got to watch hockey, Team Canada and all that sort of stuff. So it was a huge void in my life not being able to watch the game, learn. You learn in your life that you really miss things when you lose them. It was probably the same with hockey fans, sports fans, players who are given that opportunity. On the other side of it, it allowed for more time to be a baseball parent, to be a father to a son who likes to play hockey, do the sort of things I never got to do on a regular basis.
How did the changes in the rules of the game affect not only your coaching, but also what we see in the game?
The game is so much better today because of the rule changes. I can't speak about the impact we've made in getting rid of the hooking and holding. Now, you're still finding your way as far as the players as the referee, as far as true battles in front of the net and the corners. That's still got to be part of our game. But the hooking and holding between the blue lines, we're slowly weeding that out of our game. As I've said this, not only to you guys but to the NHL, we really have to make sure we're hard on 15, 16, 17 year old kids, college kids, junior kids, so that by the time they get to this level, they know that if you do this, if you grab a guy, you're gonna get a penalty. So, they'll stop doing it. Now, I commend the players and the coaches and the referees, as everyone's gotten together and trying to clean it up as quickly as possible, but three to five years from now, it should totally be out of our game, and it'll be a much better game. The finesse players will be more allowed to play, passing and the grace and speed the game's supposed to be played at. Normally, it has to take away from a physical aspect of the game, because the hitting and physical play in the battles are part of the game. Simple as that.
Speaking of the physical aspect, Keith Ballard made a nice physical and perfectly legal check on Richard Park, but then Vancouver went after him. What do you feel about that?
It's an unwritten rule in hockey, defend your teammates whether they're right or wrong, and I'll tell you, whether or not we eliminate fighting completely from the game of hockey, I'm not sure that'll happen. I think one day that's coming. But I'll tell you this- as great as the hit was, the impact of what he did after the hit when they went at him, and he took his helmet off and he stood up to fight the biggest guy on the ice, I think he gained more respect in the NHL by everyone for that, moreso than the actual hit. If someone hit our player like that with a clean hit, and my players were defending him, I couldn't say anything bad. So I can't anything negative about the fact the players start defending a teammate. It's a game of emotions. It's a physical game. A lot of times, we all in our lifetime sit back and say, "Wow, I should've done that, maybe I should've done that". So I can't be disappointed with that, clearly defending a teammate and how he stood up to the biggest guy on the ice in center ice, he met him in the middle of the ring.
Going back to the game, has your son tried playing with five Waynes yet?
Tries that all the time, and this is the sad thing about society. In a sense of when I grew up, the closest thing we had to this kind of game was tabletop hockey and the old Genesis game that was around. We've progressed into actually having a game that's similar or close to the National Hockey League, as close as it can be without actually physically playing. Unfortunately, my kids, who are 15, 13, and 5, can beat me pretty much blindfolded. So it shows you, as I told the kids, I only built the game and made the game, I haven't perfected it.
You remember that Phil Esposito game?
Oh, yeah, yeah, you know what we did? We used to play with pennies on a table, pushing through and...Americans played football that way.
Yeah. But now, what's wonderful now is that you can choose the teams you want, you can choose the favorite players, the countries, the arenas that you decide to play in look like those arenas in those cities, the coaches on the bench, you actually think of them being a coach. The outlook of it is absolutely over the top. We've progressed so much in every field. Even cartoons now, they look so realistic. I mean, one day we're going to be playing a video game and it actually look like the person. You're going to think it's more of a film or video of the game than the actual game itself.
Speaking of that, the NHL is really taking a lot of strides to brace new technologies, whether it's on their Internet site when they're adding highlights every night with Video-On-Demand and video games. What advantages do you think that these technologies bring to the NHL players and the product as a whole?
Well, two-fold. One's teaching basics of the game. By that, I mean, for the average person, loves the sport, and has seen a couple of games, but really, there's a lot of people who say "I don't understand the two-line pass" and I don't understand "icing." It teaches them the rules of the game, and they can participate and have fun and actually learn these rules. Secondly, and this has changed a lot over the last fifteen years, the perception of the game of the hockey was "violent, physical," and all that goes with that. The fact of the matter is, the art of the game itself is a pretty special commodity. There's something very artistic about being able to play the game of hockey, and I think that most people who are hockey fans in the northeast or northern part of the United States understand that. Most Canadians who follow hockey understand that. But the people who didn't grow up hockey can learn the art of the sport itself with all the new technology that the NHL has going on there, and that's a good thing.
What are some of the differences of being a coach or GM as opposed to being a player?
The biggest difference? The game itself, getting ready for a game, is similar. You know, when I get on the team bus and head to the arena, the same feeling that I have in my mind and my body is about what I had when I was going as a player. The difference is, as a player, you get yourself ready to play. The day before, you practice hard, you think of the team your playing against, you listen to your coaches. The next day, you start thinking about it and playing the game, there you go. In coaching, it's totally different. We have to consume our time, picking up the poor things and the good things we did the night before, watching the video tape of that, preparing for the system when you want to play your next opponent, taking that and putting it into a practice, what we're gonna do in a practice that will enable us to be more ready for the game the next night. So the biggest difference is that the preparation and the workload is much more demanding of that than a player. Fortunately, I have a great staff. My three assistant coaches are absolutely amazing, and do a lot of the workload, the prepartion. I give them a huge responsibility. We have no egos between the four of us, and all the decisions we try to make are on the same page together. So, the biggest difference is the workload is much more demanding being a coach. Any coach will tell you that, whether it's basketball, hockey, football, or baseball. The workload and the time commitment for a coach is much more demanding.
In terms of your legacy, you've been successful. You've won Stanley Cups as a player, you've won gold medals as a GM. Do you think to be taken seriously as a coach that you have to win the Stanley Cup?
Oh, sure. I'm going to be judged on my winning and losing record, but that's okay. As I said to someone the other day, "I'm going to be judged on winning and losing championships, and that's the way it should be." But, how I do as a coach has no effect on what I did as a player. What I did as a player, the impact I had in the game and the records and championships I have, that's done. It's gone, it's history, nobody can take that away. So, to become a bad coach doesn't mean it ruins what I did before. So this is a new challenge for me, a new chapter, I look forward to it. So far, it's been better than I anticipated.
Going back to the game, in :Gretzky vs. Gretzky" mode, you can actually pit one version of yourself against a different time, a different part of your career. What do you think about that feature? Do you think players will really get a kick out of it?
Yeah, trust me, pick me when I'm 22. (laughs) I was smarter at 42, but I was better at 22. Yeah, that's what's unique about it, it's a time capsule. We always wonder in sports if you think the '55 Yankees, are they gonna beat the '95 Yankees, or can the '87 Oilers beat the '96 New York Rangers, whatever. We're always trying to compare the element of time, so maybe in some small way, this is the way we show it.
Is it a little daunting for you that everywhere you go, people refer to you as "The Great One?"
Yeah, it's really bad. (laughs)
Who do you think the next Gretzky is going to be?
I don't know who the next one will be. The three young guys- Spencer, Crosby, and Staal- all three of them are truly phenomenal players. I think that Staal plays to me a little more like Messier, a little stronger and more physical. All three of them are great young players.
I see you on the cover of Gretzky NHL '06 as a Los Angeles King. When you think back to your playing days, do you think of yourself as an Oiler, a King, or a Ranger?
There wasn't one bad thing I could say about any of the three. They were all special and unique. Of course, there's being in Edmonton when I was young and winning championships. The greatest year, the most fulfilling year I had in my career was the year we went to the Finals with the Kings. I knew I'd like New York, but I didn't know I'd love it as much as I did. I had the greatest three years of my life there. So they're all special.

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