Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Doug Miller on 08/14/11 at 06:22 PM ET
In an exclusive interview with Game Hunters, USA Today’s branch of video game coverage, The Great One sat down to talk with them briefly about NHL 12, as well as hockey past, present, and future.
Normally, I’d just link to the interview, but it is Sunday, and I’m looking for something to break the dull of boredom that is putting together those “Around the Leagues” updates together. So I’ll bring you the full thing, with some of my own side comments when appropriate.
Also because, when The Great One speaks… thou shall listen. Trust me, it’s somewhere in the hockey-bible, around verse 99 in the book of Wayne. Anyway, on with the interview… which can be found in its original form here.
Wayne Gretzky is getting back on the ice—virtually.
The Great One will join hockey legends including Ray Bourque and Chris Chelios and six other to-be-named greats to be included in EA Sports’ NHL 12. The new modes in the game, due Sept. 13 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, let players relive the legends’ careers or add them to any current team. You can also face-off against an all-Legends team.
Gretzky considers becoming named a video game legend an accolade comparable to being inducted into the Hall of Fame, which he was 12 years ago. “They have the technology so good it’s basically pretty much the same,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s a great honor either way and I’m excited about it. At least my kids now believe me when they see it on a video game.”
That’s a pretty bold comparison for Wayne to make… comparing his inclusion as a Legend in NHL 12 to be on par with being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. No pressure with your remaining six choices EA, no pressure at all. However, let’s keep in mind that this Legends feature has yet to be confirmed or denied as something that will continue to run with the NHL-series itself, so we may just simply be looking at “the first class” of hockey legends to be included into the franchise.
Current players that Gretzky sees as potential legends? “Guys like (Pittsburgh Penguin’s Sidney) Crosby and (Washington Capitals’ Alex) Ovechkin. And even younger guys like (the Tampa Bay Lightning’s) Steven Stamkos and (Edmonton Oilers’) Taylor Hall. We have got a lot of great young players who obviously one day will be tremendous legends.”
I’m only going to assume that Gretzky’s failure to mention Nicklas Lidstrom was due to the fact that he is already considered a legend, without question from the hockey world. Yeah, there are a bunch of other current players you could throw out there as “potential future legends”, however I’m not going to use up any of your time with debating about who said players might be considerable for such an honor. As typically, you’ve got to play out your entire career before we can start realistically having such a discussion.
While the modern game “has changed so much (and) the players today are so big and strong and so fast,” Gretzky says, Hall of Famers such as Mark Messier, Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau, Paul Coffey and Ray Bourque “could play in any era. But the ability and talent of these kids has gone up so high, it’s a completely different game now.”
Name dropping a bit there Wayne? Not holding it against you… but could we take this as some kind of clue as to who remains on the still-unknown list of Legends in NHL 12? Well all likely indications are that Orr and Howe will both be in the game, and Bourque has already been confirmed. Which leaves us with Messier, Beliveau, and Coffey. However, as I’ve been speculating… I think these nine players will consist of 5 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goaltender. The goalie in question has to be a “modern” one considering the shape of his mask in the silhouette we’ve seen in the trailers thus far. Which leaves that at a pretty short list of Roy, Fuhr, and Belfour. I’ve still got my money on Roy though. In any case, I could be wrong about this combination, and we could see four defensemen… perhaps Coffey being the one in question. Either way, given what we know, with the obvious hints at Super Mario, Gretzky’s list of names is still too long by one name, no matter how you slice it. Anyway, your brain can ponder about that some more… I’m moving on to the Q&A segment of the interview.
Who first called you the ‘The Great One’? How did it feel when you first heard it?
I don’t mean this in an egotistical way, but it kind of rolled off my back. When I was 10 years old, I scored 400 goals that year in youth hockey and a reporter in southern Ontario in a newspaper article sort of gave me that and the nickname stuck with me my whole career. I really am humbled by it and don’t really think about it too much. It’s kind of funny.
What advice do you have for others looking to succeed in hockey?
When I speak to youth groups and kids, or even being a parent talking to my own kids, it’s passion. First of all, you have got to be lucky enough that the good Lord blessed you (with talent) and obviously I was for some reason picked. I was God blessed, there is no question about that. I was very fortunate. With that also comes passion. I always tell people if you have passion for what you are doing, whether it’s in everyday life going to school or the job you do or being a professional athlete, if you have that passion for what you are doing you are going to go the extra mile and put in the extra commitment level of hard work and dedication. I never looked at it like I was practicing I always looked at it as this is what I wanted to do and this is my passion and my joy. That is what I think passion does for you. It takes you to that next level. I encourage anybody that’s doing anything if they have a passion for what they are doing, it takes them to another level.
I’d like to take a moment to point out Gretzky’s “passion philosophy” - as it’s the same idea I’ve lived by my entire life, so I happen to agree with him 100% on this one. The proof of which is sitting right in front of you. I didn’t get brought on here at KK because of my hockey-writing background, because I didn’t have one. I have little doubt that what landed me the tremendous honor as a part of the staff here, was that Paul could see my passion for both hockey and writing. The two had never really been fused together before, but it was obviously a natural fit, and thus, here I am writing this, and here you are reading it. Passion will indeed get you places in life, and I have to again thank Paul for giving me this opportunity, as it is still just as much of a dream come true now, as it was when I wrote up my very first post here.
Back to the final question.
What do you think a video game like NHL 12 can draw fans to hockey?
I think it is only a positive. I look at what EA and John Madden have done for football and as big as football is here in this country and how much people enjoy playing (Madden NFL) and here we are with EA’s hockey game. Not everybody has the opportunity to ice skate. This is an opportunity for them to get up close and follow the National Hockey League and the players and ex-players who played in and be a part of being in the NHL. It is really remarkable how close they make it to being realistic. For people who don’t get that chance to skate and have that opportunity to maybe grow up dreaming of playing in the NHL, this is really something special and unique that is as close to the game of hockey as you can possibly be without being on the ice.
Well, I certainly feel better now, as I’ve essentially been saying the same thing of the NHL-series for the past several years now since I went down with a back injury, and have yet to be able to return to the ice. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who feels this way, and getting the same stamp of approval from The Great One himself just feels like it validates my previous statements 99 times over. I’m sure the same statement makes the guys who work hard year-round at EA Canada very happy as well.
As for that “Around the Leagues” post I promised yesterday, and mentioned earlier in this post… it’s coming along. Although as I said, for someone who enjoys writing as much as I do, they are rather tedious and boring things to put together, as there isn’t much writing involved on my part, just a lot of clicking, copying, pasting, and coding. Either way, that will go up tomorrow, one way or another. After which, I’ll have myself affixed to my computer for the rest of the week, awaiting the news on the next batch of Legends to be included in NHL 12.
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About Kukla's Korner Hockey
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.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org