This is an article from the June 13, 2011 issue
The Brantford, Ontario, native led the Edmonton Oilers to four titles in the 1980s. A Canadian team hasn't won the Stanley Cup since 1993.
Dan Patrick:Were there parallels between LeBron James's leaving Cleveland for Miami and your leaving Edmonton for Los Angeles?
Wayne Gretzky: I think it was a little bit different. [Mine] was more of a mutual understanding between me and the organization that maybe it was time to let me go. As a matter of fact, the process of me leaving Edmonton probably originated within the organization.
DP:Could you have stayed?
WG: I'm not sure that ownership at that time wanted to pay me fair market value. They made the decision that they didn't want to lose me as a free agent, and they traded me a year before my contract expired. Looking back, it's something that worked out well for Edmonton. [The Oilers] got a lot of young players and went on to win a championship. I was thrilled to be part of the L.A. Kings over the years.
DP:Would you have liked to play with Mario Lemieux?
WG: We played together in 1987 in the Canada Cup. I had more fun playing with Mario than I've ever had playing hockey. He would have added 10 years to my career, without question. He was so smart and talented. We played the game the same way. We thought it the same way.
DP:Is it fair to compare Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin with you?
WG: That's what sports is about. When I came in they were comparing me with Bryan Trottier or Guy Lafleur or Mike Bossy or Marcel Dionne. All of a sudden a new kid comes along, like Lemieux, and people start comparing that athlete to you. You watch a guy like Crosby, as young as he is and as good as he's been, 10 years from now, someone's going to come along and we'll say, Is this guy better than Crosby?
DP:Do you take credit for spreading hockey throughout the U.S. when you came to L.A.?
WG: The timing of all that was perfect: You had Lemieux in Pittsburgh, [Steve] Yzerman in Detroit, Brett Hull saving a franchise in St. Louis, and, of course [Mark] Messier in New York. It wasn't just the Kings and Wayne Gretzky. It was a combination of the players on our team and the superstars in the league and their commitment not only to winning but to helping promote a sport.
DP:How important is it for Vancouver to bring the Cup back to Canada after a 17-year drought?
WG: I don't know how much people in Montreal and Toronto care if Vancouver wins the Stanley Cup. I know people are pulling for them. It won't be as big throughout the country as when Sidney scored the gold medal goal in the 2010 Olympics.
DP:Most goals you had in a game?
WG: When I was 10, I got nine in one game. I got mad at the coach because he didn't play me in the third period.
DP:Were the other kids' parents mad at you for not passing?
WG: I passed a lot. Believe it or not, I was a pretty good playmaker. I played defense that year, so I [could play] the whole game, but I didn't take anybody's ice time.
DP:Were you Bobby Orr?
WG: In my mind I was. But I wasn't as good. Believe me, I played a different kind of defense than Bobby Orr.
DP:Could you ever be an enforcer, even on the ice with your own kids?
WG: No, my kids would be tougher than I would be.
Hines Ward said he's in good shape from Dancing with the Stars, but football requires a very specific type of training. The Steelers WR said first-year players think they're preparing themselves during the lockout, but they're just wearing out their bodies. "A lot of them are overtraining right now," Ward told me, "trying to come [to camp] in the best shape they can. Then the first week of training camp comes, and that's when a lot of injuries occur."
The Lakers' decision to hire Mike Brown surprised a lot of people—maybe even owner Jerry Buss and V.P. Jim Buss. "I felt going into the interview that the Busses didn't know me at all, and it was almost like I was an afterthought," Brown told me. "I decided that I was going to take over the interview from the start." It worked—Brown said that midway through their meeting, G.M. Mitch Kupchak told Jerry Buss that somehow Brown was running the interview.
Line of the week
NFL Network host Rich Eisen on how thin programming has become during the lockout: "Last week I did a seven-minute segment on the sandwich Mark Sanchez ordered when he came to visit."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com
1. Amar'e Stoudemire on the Knicks' front-office shake-up.
2. Jonathan Vilma shares the players' view on the NFL talks.
THE FINE PRINT: Dodgers owner Frank McCourt says the Dodgers met their payroll for May. But for the next 30 days, they will be known as Chico's Bail Bonds.