Today, at the news conference announcing his new position as head coach of the National Hockey League's Phoenix Coyotes, the best player to play the game and part owner of the franchise, Wayne Gretzky made two statements replete with pride in both his abilities and property, as well as integrity in his actions:
1. "I wasn't naturally gifted with size or speed. Everything I did in hockey, I worked for. And that's the way I'll be as a coach." 2. "I have an investment in the team, an ownership stake in this team and I felt like I was the best person to coach this team." Wayne Gretzky http://tsn.ca/nhl/news_story.asp?id=132749
Thanks for that, Tyson. Crazy Wayne Gretzky story: on the day that Stevie Ray Vaughn died (August 1990 I think) I went with cousins (they were visiting from Maryland) to Disneyland in California. I was a music student in LA at the time. So we're standing in line waiting to go in the "It's A Small World Afterall" ride and I see Wayne Gretzky there with his gorgeous blonde actress wife and their adorable children waiting in the adjacent line. I freak out. My future cousin-in-law Chris is skeptical saying, "That can't be Wayne Gretzky. He has to be bigger than that." I say, "Chris, come on, dude. It's Wayne." I'm still freaked. No one notices that it's Wayne but me. And just to prove it to Chris I start yelping, "Hey Wayne!" and seeing if Wayne moves. He jumps a little and I turned my head away. Did that 2 or 3 times.
So Wayne and his family are in the car or boat or whatever it is right behind us. And I'm super-freaked out at this point figuring out how I will go about approaching him and what I'll say. With that wicked "It's a Small World" music blaring out I'm only obsessed with catching him after the ride.
After the ride I go up to him and say, "Hi Wayne" and then go numb. The guy had been a hero of mine for 10 years by then. He was the most gracious man I've ever met. I couldn't even speak and he made me really comfortable and talked a little hockey with me. My wonderful cousin Barb snapped a picture with Wayne and I and Wayne put his arm around me and smiled the finest smile you've ever seen. What a class act. That pic is one of my only treasured possessions. I'm sure he gets bugged by fans like me pretty regularly and to be so genuine and benevolent about meant a lot.
I have not met Wayne Gretzky personally, but he has been a hero of mine since the age of 3 (1983- when I first started to understand hockey). He is a complete class act. Here in Canada he is still idolized by many people, young and old alike. He has kept in the spotlight since retiring in '99 by being the "Executive Director" of the '02 (Gold Medal team) and '06 Canadian Men's Olympic Hockey Team and he gets in the news whenever anything involving the Phoenix Coyotes happens.
I'll be a happy man if hockey can regain and surpass its pre-lockout status and thrive in the States. If the fan base comes back in droves, a big budget TV deal may only be a few seasons away.
There will be no problem here in Canada, fans here have been starving for pro hockey. Although, I am sure that a large number of couch potatoes found a lot better things to do with their time last fall/winter/spring. This season, watch for the Minnesota Wild. With the rule changes opening and speeding up the game I think the quickness they have on their roster could make them the team to beat.
In closing and upon reflection, it is great to see that my childhood hero is turning into an adulthood hero. With the quotes I have posted here and from what I have seen from him over the last five or so years, Wayne Gretzky truly is a hero in the sense of rational self-interest. Increasingly, the sports world lacks true heroes, so it is good to see that Wayne Gretzky, due to holding correct principles (hard work and dedication) and acting accordingly, will always be one.