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Posted On Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 8:36 PM

By Derek Mori -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Gretzky Fantasy Camp Blog

Mori: Another Cup, another fantastic experience

Derek Mori has been attending Wayne Gretzky's Fantasy Camp since 2006, when his wife sprung the trip on him as a 40th birthday gift. He is here for a seventh straight year and has agreed to blog his experiences for NHL.com.

Derek, who lives in Oakville, Ont. with his wife, Anita, and twin boys, says he's certainly not an ex-pro, but he's not a beginner either. He's been on the team that has won the Gretzky Fantasy Camp Cup four out of the six years he's been here, and he intends to do it again.

Read on to learn more about Derek's experience and what No. 99's camp is all about:


LAS VEGAS -- It's over, and I'll be heading back home with my fifth Gretzky Cup championship. This was a tight one, too.

My team, known as Team D all week, knocked off Team A by the slim 2-1 margin. Our team was coached by Glen Gretzky, Joe Lama and Marty McSorley while the opposing team was coached by Walter Gretzky and Charlie Henry.

It really could have gone either way, but I have to give credit to Marty for his pregame pep talk. He spoke about strategy, which I thought was extremely helpful for our cause. He also gave us sound, sage advice on the bench after our shifts.

Marty can coach. We were thrilled to have him behind our bench.

We played two periods and were down 1-0 after the first. But, I struck for our first goal in the second period to tie it up at 1-1. It came on a deflection.

The game-winner came off a scramble in front of the net. They pulled their goalie in the final minutes and put some serious pressure on us, but we shut them down and got to enjoy our celebration on the ice.

And, yes, it is very much like the Stanley Cup celebration, except Gary Bettman doesn't present our captain with the Gretzky Cup. Wayne is the one who presents the trophy to us and Joey Moss wore white gloves and carried the trophy onto the ice.

This win is my fifth, but it is particularly gratifying because there are many first-time campers on our team as well as one veteran, Chris Sealy, who has been coming here as long as I have and still hadn't won until this year. We kept telling him he was a jinx and nobody wanted him on their team, but we were thrilled to win this one for him and I was genuinely excited when I saw him raise the Cup over his head.

Everybody was already talking about coming back next year to defend the title. I'll take Chris on my team again. He's no jinx for me.

Tonight we have a Awards Ceremony and Banquet Dinner at the Bellagio. Everyone is pumped.

We head home Sunday and I have so many more stories to tell my family and buddies back home.

Until next year.

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Posted On Friday, 02.10.2012 / 9:17 PM

By Derek Mori -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Gretzky Fantasy Camp Blog

Mori: One win to the title at another great camp

Derek Mori has been attending Wayne Gretzky's Fantasy Camp since 2006, when his wife sprung the trip on him as a 40th birthday gift. He is here for a seventh straight year and has agreed to blog his experiences for NHL.com.

Derek, who lives in Oakville, Ont. with his wife, Anita, and twin boys, says he's certainly not an ex-pro, but he's not a beginner either. He's been on the team that has won the Gretzky Fantasy Camp Cup four out of the six years he's been here, and he intends to do it again.

Read on to learn more about Derek's experience and what No. 99's camp is all about:


LAS VEGAS -- Once again this camp has exceeded my expectations.

Wayne really knows how to do it right. He improves it and makes sure the customers are happy. We definitely are.

They always want feedback from us, the campers, to know if people had a good time, what they enjoyed, because that plays into whether or not they have another one. Not everyone is always going to be happy, but we're all on holiday here, so you can't complain. We're on holiday, playing hockey, drinking beer, hanging out and we're in Vegas -- do I need to say more.

If I win another championship, it's like a cherry on top of a great trip.

And, you know what, I've got a chance. We won again today, and now we're 3-0 going into the Gretzky Cup Final on Saturday.

It was a tight one, though. We were tied and went to overtime. Guy Carbonneau and Denis Savard were on the team and they were good. I can't believe those guys were 0-2 against us.

We didn't play that well, but we worked on some small things for tomorrow because the pros don't play in the championship. We're all looking forward to it. It's a one game elimination now.

I didn't score today, but I came close in overtime. I was on the ice and my linemate scored, but if he didn't score I would have gotten it. It was a rebound goal, bang-bang, and I was right there to get it, too.

It's a great feeling to win and to get another opportunity to get another Cup, but what I'll take most out of this year's camp is the new friends I've made. There are a lot of first time guys here and guys here for only the second time that I have never had a chance to meet and get to know.

There is also a guy on our team that has been here for seven years and he's never won, so we're trying to win the Gretzky Cup for him. It's the Ray Bourque thing. We want to win it for ourselves, but we want to really win it for him, too.

Thursday night they had a party at Hyde Bar here at the Bellagio and, like every year, they managed to surprise us again. They always try to organize something that is fun and different, which is good because it keeps the energy going and the intrigue up.

Well, Thursday night they were raffling off NHL sweaters that were autographed by the former pros that are here. They put all of our names in the raffle and there were 20 sweaters available, so you had basically a one in three chance to get it.

I didn't get one. That's how good my luck has been here in Vegas. Then I went to play the tables afterwards and I didn't play very well either.

Tonight they've given everyone free time to do what we like, but I'll go up to the hospitality suite, hook up with some guys, go have dinner and probably go to a club. We'll go out in packs, but of course we've got to prepare ourselves for Saturday's big game.

Or, at least our goalie better.

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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 8:01 PM

By Derek Mori -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Gretzky Fantasy Camp Blog

Mori: Back in the Final at Gretzky Fantasy Camp

Derek Mori has been attending Wayne Gretzky's Fantasy Camp since 2006, when his wife sprung the trip on him as a 40th birthday gift. He is here for a seventh straight year and has agreed to blog his experiences for NHL.com.

Derek, who lives in Oakville, Ont., with his wife, Anita, and twin boys, says he's certainly not an ex-pro, but he's not a beginner either. He's been on the team that has won the Gretzky Fantasy Camp Cup four out of the six years he's been here, and he intends to do it again.

Read on to learn more about Derek's experience and what No. 99's camp is all about:


LAS VEGAS --
Two games down, two wins in the book, and a clear path to the Gretzky Cup Final. I've won the title here at this camp four out of the six years I've been here, and it's nice to know I'm going to have a shot for a fifth title this year.

Eddie Mio, the goalie on my team and one of our two ex-pros, absolutely stood on his head today. He was the first star in both games.

Marty McSorley, the other ex-pro on my team, is great to play with because he knows a lot of the technical stuff dealing with systems, where you're supposed to be, what responsibilities each player has. Although he's a fighter, he's got some great hockey awareness.

While on the bench Marty is a serious guy, but very much a team guy. He is telling guys all the time what to do and reminding them of their assignments. Even though you know, he'll remind you that, 'Hey, that guy there, that's your guy.' Marty is playing 'D' and after he comes off he'll tell people things that they could be doing or should be doing.

That's great because when you're playing men's pickup hockey, people don't say that stuff. Guys don't want to do that because it gets other guys angry. But, this is coming from a pro. These guys are trained elite athletes and it's engrained in them that when the puck goes here, they have to stand there and do this. They're trained like that and it's good to hear about it from them.

As for me, I did pretty well. Not only did we win both games, I got a goal in the first game. Wayne actually set me up on a 2-on-1 and then he rode his stick like Tiger Williams after I scored. The guys all got a good laugh out of that.

Wayne is just as excited as everyone else. He doesn't want to score, but he has fun setting guys up. He still has the hands and the vision.

The pace overall was a lot faster. In fact, every year it's getting faster. Maybe it's because I'm getting older and slower and the other guys coming here are younger and faster, but the pace was quick today and I was sucking some wind.

Twenty years ago it would be no problem, but now I'm just exhausted.

Our first game was against a team that included Jeremy Roenick, Brian Leetch and Grant Fuhr. We beat them 8-4, but I was talking to Fuhr and he told me that he had some work done on his knees recently. He said, 'I'm not going down, I don't care.'

The second game was tight and we barely squeaked it out. Guy Carbonneau and Denis Savard played for the other team and Curtis Joseph went in net for the second half of the game.

I hadn't met Carbonneau until breakfast this morning. He was sitting by himself and I was like, "Hey, come on over here and sit with us." Hey, he's a rookie here, gotta help him out. We were chit-chatting about hockey, and that's really what this is all about.

It's all hockey all the time here, and there is more to be played Friday.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.08.2012 / 10:02 PM

By Derek Mori -  Special to NHL.com /NHL.com - Gretzky Fantasy Camp Blog

Mori: Gretzky's Fantasy Camp a dream come true

Derek Mori has been attending Wayne Gretzky's Fantasy Camp since 2006, when his wife sprung the trip on him as a 40th birthday gift. He is here for a seventh straight year and has agreed to blog his experiences for NHL.com.

Derek, who lives in Oakville, Ont. with his wife, Anita, and twin boys, says he's certainly not an ex-pro, but he's not a beginner either. He's been on the team that has won the Gretzky Fantasy Camp Cup four out of the six years he's been here, and he intends to do it again.

Read on to learn more about Derek's experience and what No. 99's camp is all about:


LAS VEGAS -- This is my seventh year coming to Wayne Gretzky's Fantasy Camp, and it never gets old.

What started as a surprise 40th birthday gift from my wife, Anita, to me has turned into an annual experience that has given me a new fraternity of hockey buddies. That is why I keep coming back -- the camaraderie, the friendships, and the fun time we all have together.

The hockey, if you can believe it, has become the bonus. Although, when you come here, it's like you're a kid again playing hockey on a road trip, only we're adults now and we can pretty much do whatever the heck we want. No curfews for us.

I was born and raised in Scarborough, Ont. and currently live in Oakville. I am a nuclear engineer, which sounds a lot grander than it is, and I have been playing hockey since I was five years old. I'm a huge fan, to the point where my wife jokes with me that I know too many useless things.

What sprung her interest in getting me to this camp back in 2006 was my admiration for Wayne Gretzky. I followed his career closely, so she gave me this great gift to go to Phoenix for his camp. Now, I will say that I am a die-hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan and always have been. I bleed blue, even though we as fans have been bleeding for far too long now.

I love this game, and I love this camp because of the great friends I made. It's only once a year, but it's easy to reacquaint yourself with everyone. That's what we've been doing, letting our hair down and getting to know one another again. We swap our own hockey stories all the time.

For the first couple of camps it really felt as though I was living out my fantasy. You go through the dressing room, see all the pros that you used to watch and admire on Hockey Night in Canada, and it becomes like you've won your own Stanley Cup and this is the reward.

That's an irreplaceable feeling and certainly it hasn't worn off, but now I also enjoy talking to the guys, the campers, who are here for the first time and telling them my experiences. They always want to know what to expect and I'm able to tell them. I enjoy it, socializing with them and making more hockey friends. That's why I come back. It's a great time, bottom line.

Most of us got here Tuesday afternoon and our week started by getting ourselves registered. That's when we get all of our new gear, all the outer equipment -- helmets, gloves, sticks, jerseys, pants, socks, bags. It's pretty much everything you can think of except your under garments and under equipment. You also get fitted with all kinds of hats, gloves, sweat suits, sweatshirts, etc.

Everything has Wayne's logo on it. You name it, he's got it. I have six years' worth of stuff that I share now with my twin brother, Darren. I'm not complaining about it, and neither is he.

Tuesday night we had a light reception so we could all get reacquainted and get to know the new guys as well as meet Wayne again. One of the more memorable things for me every year is he always remembers me. He must meet thousands of people, but he remembers me.

I remember my first year at the camp, we were in Phoenix at the time, and you know you're going to get to play with Wayne. Well, there he goes setting me up on two breakaways. I scored on one of them, and it's all on video. What a fantastic feeling, Wayne Gretzky set me up for a breakaway goal.

Well, I come the next year and Wayne says to me, 'Hey, you're the breakaway guy.' That's what I became known as for a while, but later on he remembered my name.

Everyone went out for a late night Tuesday. It's a great time because you get to know a lot more about the other players in such a relaxed, social setting. Then, today, Wednesday, was our first day on the ice in sort of a training camp where the coaches evaluate you so they can rate us and make even teams.

All the guys you were out with the night before, you can't remember all of their names because there are so many different guys, but you get to know them well and then you get to play with them.

But, really, the on the ice portion of this is the bonus. You play hockey and party, have a great time. It's really almost the perfect day.

 

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Quote of the Day

It's always a little bit weird, but it moves on. They've got a good team, and they played well tonight. I think that's just part of it.

— Peter Laviolette after coaching Predators to a win against Flyers on Saturday in his first game against his former team