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Interview With Gretzky, Orr And Lemieux

supplied by the NHL PR department,

An Interview with:

Wayne Gretzky
Bobby Orr
Mario Lemieux

WAYNE GRETZKY: Honestly, speaking on behalf of the 100 players who are really fortunate to be here and be part of the National Hockey League, it's a privilege to play the game, and we're all fortunate enough that we're part of this 100, and we're all like young kids, we're all thrilled to be here, and it's a great honor.

In saying that, we'll open it up to questions that anyone has.

Q. For all three of you, is the greatest player to ever play sitting at the podium right now?
WAYNE GRETZKY: No. Listen, we talk about this all the time. That's what makes sports great, and that's what makes hockey wonderful. I think we're all in pretty much agreement that Gordie was pretty special. These two guys here were pretty special, also. We all had so much respect for what Gordie did and what he accomplished that it's not a bad thing to be named in the top 100 behind a guy like Gordie Howe. I think we all feel the same way.

BOBBY ORR: Absolutely. Gordie is in my mind the best that ever played the game. I'm not sure if we'll ever see another one. I sometimes sit and look at his numbers. As I sit sometimes and look at the numbers that these two guys put up, I think, how in the world did they do it.

But no, Gordie was a special player and a special man in my mind, and I think the three of us agree that he was the best player ever.

WAYNE GRETZKY: I think the three of us would vote for that, so there you go.

MARIO LEMIEUX: Absolutely. I agree with these guys that he was a special player. He could play any way that you wanted out there, and great goal scorer; tough, as we all know, and always taking care of business. But he was truly a great ambassador for the game. He loved the game. He played until he was 51 years old, and that's pretty rare these days except for Jagr, my buddy. Yeah, he was certainly a very special player, but Wayne with all the numbers and Bobby really changed the game as far as the way the game is played by a defenseman. So these two were very, very special, as well.

Q. Wayne, how do you feel when people give you a great deal of credit for the success of the NHL starting here in Los Angeles and in the western part of the United States when you came here?
WAYNE GRETZKY: Oh, listen, I said this before. I came at the right time. We had guys like Luc Robitaille and Kelly Hrudey and Marty McSorley and Tony Granato and Rob Blake. Everyone understood their scenario in a sense that we had to do more than just play the game, that we had to push and promote youth hockey and high school hockey. I think in '88 there was four high school teams, and by '95 there was 120 high school teams.

Everybody had a hand in it, and timing in life is everything, and when I came to LA, Mario was doing his thing in Pittsburgh; Brett Hull was recreating the St. Louis Blues; Yzerman was in Detroit and Mark Messier went to New York; and I think each and every guy understood that not only were they hockey players but they had to help sell and promote the sport of hockey, and we rode a wave together. And then along came this gentleman like Michael Eisner that fell in love with ice hockey and said, I want to have a hockey club. And everyone says, how can you name your team the Mighty Ducks? How can you do that? But that helped propel and push hockey to another level.

I was a smart part of it, as was Bobby in the '60s in Boston, as was Gordie in the '50s and '60s in Detroit, and then of course 1980 with the team winning gold medal in the United States, which was very special, and that really helped more and more youth kids to say, you know what, I want to be a hockey player and I want to play this sport.

Everybody had a hand in it. I had a small part, Mario did, Bobby, Gordie did, Messier did, Brett Hull did, and we're all proud of it. It's a privilege to play in the National Hockey League. We all had the same dreams growing up as kids. Mario probably wanted to be Beliveau. Bobby Orr probably wanted to be Doug Harvey. And of course I wanted to be Gordie. So we all had the same dream, and that's the interesting thing, when we all meet, we all had the same dreams as kids, that we wanted to play in the National Hockey League, and the game is in better shape today than it's ever been. These players from Auston Matthews to Connor McDavid, they're just tremendous players.

Everybody has a hand in it, and we all feel very privileged that we're a part of the National Hockey League.

Q. Wayne, obviously when Bobby was tearing up the NHL, you were in the backyard trying to figure out the game you were going to play, and you played with Mario in Canada Cup and you played against him. Can you talk a little bit about your memories of Bobby and what he did, and also of playing against and with Mario?
WAYNE GRETZKY: You know, my dad never really went to many hockey games. We couldn't afford to go. These guys were so high priced. But he went to a Bruins-Leafs game, and I was about seven years old, I remember, and he came back and he told me, this guy Bobby Orr is pretty special. And all I remember saying to my dad is yeah, but I can't play defense. He goes, okay, forget about Bobby Orr, you're not going to be that kind of a player.

I've told this story many times. I played with a guy named Ace Bailey, and unfortunately he died in 9/11, and I used to sit with him, and we were roommates, and I think he probably got tired of me asking him Bobby Orr questions because all I wanted to know was what did Bobby Orr eat and what did Bobby Orr do and how did Bobby Orr practice. We're fans as kids and we're fans as players, and then I got a chance to play with Mario. I went and watched Mario play junior hockey when he was 16 years old and he scored five goals and five assists, I think, and somebody said, what do you think, and I said, I think he can play for the Oilers right now, and he was only 17.

And then we got a chance to play together in the Canada Cup, and the only argument we had -- it wasn't even an argument, it was a debate. We played together first game against Czechoslovakia, and we had a two-on-one and I passed it to him, and he passed it back to me and I missed, and we went to the best, and I went, Mario, if I give you the puck, you score; you're a better goal scorer than I am. As fate has it, we had a two-on-one that ended the Canada Cup in Game 3.

But we're all kids. We all idolized the game, and we all grow up -- that's been the most interesting thing for me about this top 100 is that whether it was Doug Harvey or Bobby Orr or Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky or Mark Messier or Gordie Howe, we all followed Hockey Night in Canada, we all followed the National Hockey League, we all collected hockey cards, and we all came from just really nice families and great parents that gave us an opportunity to play the game we loved, and we all wanted to be part of the National Hockey League.

Every now and then we go, well, that guy retired, how are we going to replace him, and then other guys come along. Like I said earlier, the game is in great shape today, and the players that are playing today are wonderful young men, and they carry themselves extremely well, and we should all be proud as ex-players, and the National Hockey League should be very proud of what these young men do today. It's very exhilarating.

Q. Bobby, Wayne just talked about him and Mario playing together in '87. I wonder if it's ever crossed your mind what it would have like for you in a different world given how you changed the game so much, your creativity, your vision, to have been in that era and sharing ice with these two guys.
BOBBY ORR: I would have liked it. I don't know if I would have wanted to play against them.

You know, if I've had any disappointments -- I'm a lucky guy, and yeah, I wish I could have maybe played a little longer, but not being able to play against or with these guys in international hockey or whatever is something that is disappointing to me because they're such great players. I watched them play a lot. I watched Mario Lemieux score his first goal in Boston Garden. You can go back and take a look at it. I said, I think he might have something going here.

But I really do enjoy watching -- did enjoy watching both these young men, and the way they represent the game, and I think that's what makes our game so great. The players that have stayed in ownership and management and the league and coaching and scouting, and I think that's why the game is so great. That's why there's so many nice people in the game. The players just don't walk away. They can come back to try to help make the game even better, and these guys do it and many others, and I don't think there's another sport where the number of players come back and continue to do things within the sport to make it better. I think that says a lot for our game, and I think it says a lot for the people in our game. And to be here with the top 100 players, it's pretty special.

Q. Mr. Gretzky and Mr. Lemieux, you've said that you feel Sidney Crosby is the best player playing today. Mario, of course you know him as a teammate, as an owner. Could you just share with us an example or illustration of what you feel separates him from his peers?
MARIO LEMIEUX: I've seen him play a few times. I think his work ethic, first of all. He's the hardest -- just like Wayne was when he played, he's the hardest working guy out there, whether it's at practice or a three-on-three game at practice, he wants to win, he wants to be the best. I think his skating ability is second to none. His strength, his lower body strength is unbelievable if he goes one-on-one in the corner he's able to come out and make a play. His passing ability is probably the best in the league, and his vision, of course, is also one of the best. You put all that together, and now he's starting to score some goals this year, leading the league in scoring. He's just a special player that comes along not too often. I've been very lucky to have him at my house for a few years as a tenant, and to be able to watch him every night is very special.

WAYNE GRETZKY: I agree with Mario, everything he said. He's the best player in the game. He's earned that mantle, and his work ethic is as good or better than anybody in hockey. We encourage, and I know Bobby is very close to Connor, that that's the guy that he's chasing, and Connor sees him in his vision, and that's what makes the game wonderful is that you want to be as good as the best player. Right now Crosby is the best player, and you have to earn your stripes. Until somebody knocks him off the castle, that's the way it's going to be. He won two Stanley Cups and two gold medals, and he's handled pressure and handled everything with grace and dignity, and he deserves all the accolades he's getting. He's really been special, and he's been very lucky in the sense that he had Mario to lean on, a guy who's been through all of it and a guy that understands the pressures that go with being the best player, and that that's an advantage that Sidney probably took advantage of.

Q. Mr. Gretzky, we're always saying that records are made to be broken. You can probably sleep in peace with a few of your records. What might be the equivalent of a season of 92 goals or 215 points?
WAYNE GRETZKY: 93. (Laughter.)

You know, I don't know. The game has changed. Obviously it's more defensive now. It's tougher to score. Although they get more power plays now. Used to get one five-on-three every 10 weeks, now we get three a game. That's pretty nice. And three-on-three in overtime, I like that, too. The three of us would have been pretty good in three-on-three.

BOBBY ORR: Do any of you know the Gretzky penalty rule? Don't you remember that, when you used to go down to get the three-on-three? That rule, that was for you.

WAYNE GRETZKY: Oh, okay, thank you. (Laughter.)

But listen, the goalies today are more athletic. When Patrick Roy and Grant Fuhr and Marty Brodeur came along, it changed the game. Those guys had as big an impact in the game as any athletes that ever played the game, from myself, Mario, Bobby, Gordie. It used to be, and I say this in a nice way, the chubby guy was the goaltender because he couldn't skate, and those three guys sort of changed everything, and now the goalies are the best athletes on each team. It's harder to score. It's really difficult. That's the way it is right now.

But 93 is probably a comparison.

Q. You guys were talking a lot about Gordie and how he's the best, but I don't think you'd get an argument that you three would either -- whether he comes before or after or whatever it may be, that you guys are the other three. Have you ever been in a setting like this where the three of you were sitting up there together talking, and what is it like just to be in this sitting and be around each other, the three of you?
WAYNE GRETZKY: We're like little kids. We're having more fun than anybody. To be part of this with all the other guys back there, it's been really a great honor to be here. That's really all I can say. It's a great thrill.

BOBBY ORR: Just exciting. I don't see -- from a distance I see Wayne and Mario, but I don't spend a lot of time with them, and to come here and be able to spend some time with them, have a few laughs, talk a little hockey, it's very special. Very, very special. Although Wayne and I did play one game together. I'll leave that with you.

WAYNE GRETZKY: We actually did play a game together. I was so mad. I had to fly from Hawaii, and the only reason I flew from Hawai'i to Winnipeg was so I could play with Bobby Orr. There you go.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Filed in: NHL Teams, NHL Talk, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: bobby+orr, mario+lemieux, wayne+gretzky

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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