Before the Stanley Cup final begins Monday, the NHL is releasing a four-part podcast featuring Wayne Gretzky.
Hours before the Stanley Cup final begins Monday, the NHL will release a four-part podcast, featuring Wayne Gretzky talking to past champions—an extension of their “The Great One on 1” interview series.
This time last year, Gretzky did a trio of on-camera sitdowns with celebrity hockey fans. Before each one, he’d warn his guest that he was still learning how to conduct interviews, that he wasn’t as comfortable without a stick and skates. “I can be interviewed all day long and it doesn’t bother me, but it’s a whole different animal when you get on the other side of things,” Gretzky said. “It’s not as easy to ask the questions.”
He worried that he’d run into a guest who gave only curt answers, but each proved willing to help carry the conversation. This year he was less nervous, partly thanks to the experience, but also because he was talking with peers, from Mark Messier to T.J. Oshie, about their playoff memories. Gretzky guides the conversations, discussing players’ demeanors before big games as deftly as the life-changing results of hoisting a cup. “By no means am I Doc Emrick,” Gretzky said, “But Doc Emrick can’t skate like I can.”
The NHL has invested heavily in its own content production as a way to promote the game, particularly during the playoffs. There’s now an Emmy-nominated docuseries, Quest For The Stanley Cup, a behind-the-scenes recurring social media feature, Cup Confidential, as well as NHL Celebrity Wrap videos featuring the likes of Chloë Grace Moretz, Kenan Thompson, and streamer Ninja.
“We’re trying to put out fun, compelling content to show players smiling but also to show how passionate our players are at this time of year,” NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer said. “We also want to show our sport as social experience … That’s what we’re trying to generate—that we’re part of the sports conversation on a daily basis.”
Gretzky agreed to help the effort however he can, and will also lend his voice to upcoming specials on unexpected Stanley Cup heroes and the human stories behind who the champion captain chooses to first hand the elusive cup to after claiming victory.
“If they ask me to do things that can only help the game, I’m always more than willing,” Gretzky said. “But listen, the Joe Buck’s of the world … I think their jobs are safe.