Life as Gretzky
"I was too young to be sitting around doing nothing. And all I know is hockey. That's what I know. I was never a guy who regarded himself as a salesman, a businessman or real estate mogul. My life is hockey. Simple as that."The Miami Herald on Sunday had a good little sit down with The Great One, as his Phoenix Coyotes wind down yet another playoff-less season in the desert. Saturday saw the 'Yotes dropped by the equally moribund Florida Panthers, which is why Gretzky and company are getting any play at all in an influential southern U.S. paper like the Herald.— Wayne Gretzky
Telling an untold Gretzky story is a near impossibility, but beat writer David Neal managed to get some interesting material from a guy who, by his own admission, has been around the game — and its chroniclers — since the Stone Age.
To me, the 'Gretzky comes to town' story is a lot like the one being written about Sidney Crosby everywhere the Pittsburgh Penguins stop on their (nearly) leaguewide tour this season. After all, what do you ask a guy who has already answered everything? And how, as a hockey reporter, do you tell a new story about someone whom what's been written already fills volumes?
Because the last thing I personally would want to write (and you would want to read) is another rehashed version of 'The Gretzky tale of woe'.
Thankfully, that's not what Neal gives us.
Here's Gretzky again:
''I think my ability as a player — obviously, I was God-gifted and had some pretty special things that the Lord gave me — but the majority of what I accomplished came from hard work, preparation and relying on teammates and coaches. My point is, I wasn't really a naturally talented player. What I got, I really earned through hard work. From that point of view, I understand the game as probably as much as anybody else who's ever played it or coached it.''Some interesting stuff, some of which touches on the Crosby 'the hard worker' business I talked about just after the all-star break. As one commenter in that thread noted, Gretzky had often spoken of how his dedication was what led him to the heights he reached — something that, to a layman, seems at odds with just how far above his peers he rose.
It's interesting, too, to note just how convinced Gretzky is that he can do this and that he will succeed — despite the fact the Coyotes continue to struggle under his stewardship. Might it be that some of that stubbornness is going to keep him behind the bench long enough to turn things around?
Here's Gretzky, one more time:
"It's my life. I do it, I love it. Listen, my whole life has been hockey since I was 2 years old. I don't think anybody in life at the age of 40 can sit around the house and play golf every day. That wasn't for me. I've got a great family, and my family is obviously the most important to me, but they also understand that I love to be around the hockey, and they like to be around it, too. It works."So, for all the questions about just why Gretzky would risk tainting his legacy as a player, the real reason seems to be that he's in Arizona fighting the good fight simply because there's nowhere else for him to be.
After all, if Gretzky can't make it in hockey, he reasons, where can he?
I don't think he's planning on walking away anytime soon.