Quotes from the hockey world about the life and times of Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky celebrates his 50th birthday on Wednesday. Here is an assortment of quotes from around the hockey world on the life and times of The Great One:

Gretzky on turning 50: “I don’t mean to sound aloof about it, but it’s another day and it’s another birthday. I’m fortunate that my family’s healthy and I’m physically healthy. I feel good.”

Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby on being anointed The Next One by Gretzky as a teenager: “I took what he said as a compliment and although I didn’t think for a second I could or would break any of his records, for someone like that to say what he did meant a lot.”

Former Oilers GM and coach Glen Sather on the young Gretzky: “There were all kinds of people in the NHL who were doubters. They doubted his ability to be able to survive because of his size. I think most people underestimated his intelligence.”

Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla on Gretzky’s legacy: “Everybody still talks about what he did and how amazing the different records are. I mean, 50 (goals) in 39 (games). What did he get—92 goals or whatever it was. Guys definitely still talk about him and bring him up and are amazed.”

Montreal Canadiens forward Mike Cammalleri on meeting Grezky as a kid: “It was one of my coolest moments as a young guy. I played hockey against a guy whose dad had some sort of relationship with Gretzky. He invited us to go watch a Kings game in Toronto. Gretzky didn’t actually play, he was injured at the time. But we got to go down to the old (Maple Leaf) Gardens and after I got to meet him. He saw my jacket, a AAA jacket, and he commented on it and we talked a little bit about hockey. That brief two or three minutes was really special for me.”

Former NHLer Doug Gilmour on his favourite Gretzky moment: “For me, it was watching him in the ’87 Canada Cup. I was on the team, on the bench, watching. Just to see how good (he was) and see the skill set that he had and what he brought to a team on and off the ice, it was incredible.”

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Top draft prospect Sean Couturier on Gretzky’s impact for the younger generation: “Everyone wants to be like Gretzky and he’s for sure a hero.”

Sponsorship expert Brian Cooper on what separated Gretzky’s brand from those of other NHL stars: “He was the only one that really transcended that sport.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on his current relationship with Gretzky: “We speak periodically. Obviously, we think he has a continuing and important role in the game. Would I say that the Phoenix situation was easy for either of us? The answer is no. I know he was extraordinarily frustrated—I understood it and I respected it—but we were and continue to deal with a very difficult situation. I think in that respect he has once again demonstrated elegance and class in the way he’s handled it. And professionalism.”

Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson on Gretzky’s commanding presence heading into the 2002 Olympics: “His first board meeting was amazing. I’d met with him quite a bit before that and I wasn’t sure (how it would go). Just how he operated that—he made his points but made everyone feel very, very comfortable.”

USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean on why Gretzky appealed to Americans: “What he demonstrated to us is—to everybody—you can play in the National Hockey League at the very, very highest level and what you can do is win on excessive skill and skating ability and really grace. I think he helped move the game … away from being so excessively physically oriented, or at least having such a fighting reputation, to a game today that is much, much better to watch.”

Sather on how long it took before he knew Gretzky would be great: “It took one practice and one game. I watched him in the morning at the practice and I watched him play that night, and I was convinced that this guy was going to be an incredible player.”