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Wayne Gretzky On The Buck And McKernan Show: I Wanted To Finish My Career In St. Louis

So far this week on The Buck And McKernan Show, we’ve had the following guests (in order of appearance):

- Jared Allen
- Charlie Sheen
- Troy Aikman
- Hank Haney
- Nelly
- Wayne Gretzky
- Bob Costas

Each guy has provided us with some insight during their 15 or 20 minutes on the show. But, it was The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, who said the most about St. Louis, and for Blues’ fans, Gretzky’s comments ranging from his plan that was to finish his career in St.
Louis, one of his biggest regrets being the ’96 Blues’ coming up short, and the 2012 Blues’ potential to make a deep run resonate throughout the Twitter world yesterday.

As much I as enjoyed hearing Charlie Sheen in my ear buds while appearing on KFNS---something I never thought would happen, it was Gretzky’s interview so far this week that was the most insightful…especially to a St. Louisan.

For those of you who missed it, click HERE to listen to the audio.

If you can’t listen, here’s The Non-Gay’s transcription of the interview:

Buck: “Did I have a dream, were you a part of the Blues at one point?”
 
Gretzky: “Yeah I was and I thought that was going to be my last stop.  Fortunately for everyone I moved on probably because I was older in age.  I wish I would have went there when I was a little younger, but I loved my time there.  We go back obviously with family there and it’s a great city and a great sports city as you guys know and it’s just wonderful to see that John Davidson and the Blues and the job that Hitchcock has done for that team.  Hopefully this will be their year to finally win the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup.”

McKernan: “I was talking to a former teammate of yours when you were here for the few months that you were in St. Louis, earlier this morning to see if he could give me any good questions to ask you.  He said to ask what it was like to be a teammate of your good friend Brett Hull’s and what it was like the first time you guys had a meeting and there was a power play discussion?”
 
Gretzky: “People know Brett and his personality and my goodness I learned it firsthand, first day.  And I was kind of a different sort of person than Brett was as far as personalities go.  I sort of sat and listened and tried to do what the coaches wanted you to do as a team, and Brett had sometimes other ideas.  But the bottom line was he was a wonderful teammate and he’s still a really good close friend and I hope some day somehow he ends up back in the Blues’ organization.  St. Louis wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for Brett Hull and what he did in the ‘90s.  He singlehandedly saved that franchise, similar to what Mario (Lemieux) did in Pittsburgh and it would be great to see Brett back with the Blues.”

Buck: “That can happen it seems if this proposed ownership group with Tom Stillman is approved by the NHL.  That to me as a Blues fan and someone who likes Brett a lot would be a great day to see Brett Hull come back in some management capacity in this city that loves him as much as they do.”

Gretzky:
“Yeah, and you’re right.  People in St. Louis love him.  I mean he was fun to go watch play the game of hockey.  He made it entertaining and then when the game was over he made it fun for the media and the fans to relate what was going on.  I’d hate to see what it would be like today in this day and age of Twitter how he would handle it, but in his era he was wonderful.  But you know, the people of St. Louis do love Brett Hull and they know how important he was to the city and he’s a guy who like I said he saved that franchise.  I’m sure if it were someway possible the new ownership would want him involved and John Davidson has a great deal of respect for Brett. John has done such a wonderful job of not only building the team, but building what they have in the community now.  It’s great for the Blues and it’s great for the city and the fans of St. Louis.”

Buck: “I read a quote by you a couple of weeks ago where you said something that stuck out to me, mainly because you said it.  But you said this is a St. Louis team to me that is playing playoff hockey.  They’re a big strong team, they’ve got some skill.  They don’t have a lot of scoring. They’ve got a stud on defense in Pietrangelo who we talked about in the last segment.  It seems like… they’re making passes that I haven’t seen them make in their defensive zone, center ice, getting them into a scoring position that frankly has clicked since Ken Hitchcock came to St. Louis.”

Gretzky: “Absolutely.  Let me tell you this, I was fortunate to work with Ken in 2002 in Salt Lake City in the Olympic Games and we were fortunate enough to win a Gold Medal.  I got a chance to see him up close and personal.  His attention to detail, what he knows and how he understands the game of hockey and what it takes to be successful.  He’s a guy that won a Stanley Cup as a coach.  He won a Gold Medal as a coach and what he has brought to the Blues is simplicity.  And by that I mean what you’re saying, they’re making that one pass and it’s out of the zone.  The less time you spend in your defensive zone, the less chance there is of error.  Secondly they’re playing more of a North-South game now.  By that I mean they’re getting the puck to the red line, they’re getting the puck in deep.  They’re forechecking with a purpose and they’re creating turnovers.  To win at this level and to be successful in the playoffs you have to do the little things and have to do them because you want to do them.  I mean getting in front of the net and creating traffic, taking a hit along the wall to make sure the puck gets out of the blue line, blocking shots when you’re killing penalties.  The things they’re doing now won’t be a huge adjustment for that team when they get into playoff hockey because they’ve been playing that for the last 35 games under Hitchcock.  Everything that they’ve got right now they deserve and the credit they get is from their team effort and their team work.”

McKernan: The sentiment here in St. Louis is two of your former teams are at the top of the standings, the Blues and Rangers with 91 points is will this team for their first real run in the playoffs be able to go all the way.  Is it necessary that a team needs to experience some kind of growing process before they’re ready to go on that run?

Gretzky: “I think it’s a different day and age in sports.  I think today you find it’s harder to create dynasties.  Teams aren’t staying together as long as they used to with collective bargaining agreements in all sports.  The St. Louis Blues are not going to grow up a Chicago Blackhawks team who have won the Stanley Cup three years in a row.  And part of what happened to the Chicago Blackhawks because of the salary cap, management had to move some very good hockey players to stay under the salary cap.  The competition stays more parallel within itself.  So no, in this day and age if you’re having a tremendous year, you’re going to be a force to reckon with.  I think Vancouver showed that last year by having a great year, getting to the Stanley Cup Finals and unfortunately losing Game 7.  But it can be done now. I anticipate both the New York Rangers, and St. Louis having pretty strong, good solid, deep playoff runs.  Now saying that, a lot of things need to be going your way.  Your team has to be playing well going into the playoffs, your best players have to be playing their best hockey of the year.  And you’ve got to be lucky.  You’ve got to stay injury free.  In hockey, let’s face it, usually the best goaltending in the playoffs ultimately is part of winning the Cup.  If their goaltending can stay good as it has been all year long, both St. Louis and the Rangers have every bit of chance of winning the Cup as anybody else in the NHL.”
 
NG: When you left Los Angeles, you obviously wanted to come to a contender, and you look at that team before Grant Fuhr got hurt, you’re looking at Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger, Brett Hull, yourself, Fuhr, how close do you think that team was before Fuhr went down?

Gretzky:
“You know two of my tougher regrets as a player in the NHL were 1996, that season because we were a very good team.  Shayne Corson was playing tremendous hockey.  Brett Hull was probably the ultimate goal scorer in the game at that time.  People like Al MacInnis who eventually was a Hall of Famer, and then Grant Fuhr.  And I’m really biased, I tell people point blank that Grant Fuhr was the greatest goalie that ever played the game and I saw him each and every day.  When Grant Fuhr went down in that Toronto series it was very difficult.  You don’t replace the best goaltender, at that time probably, in the league.  I really believe we would have given Colorado a run in the next round had we beat Detroit.  I believe we would have given anybody that we faced in the semi-finals and finals of that season a good run for their money… it happened, it was great I loved being there and I wish the Blues nothing but the best of luck in this season and their playoff run.”

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