With another Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp in the books -- my team skated away with the bronze medal, but more on that in a bit -- I have to offer a huge thanks to Wayne and his entire staff, led by Darren Blake, Jeff Holbrook and Jenny Granich.
Aside from working tirelessly to give the campers a once-in-a-lifetime experience, they're always available to help our group at the NHL Network and NHL.com with access to the legends and the logistics of our coverage.
In particular, Jenny managed to find time for some of our silly requests while juggling an impossibly busy schedule. Thanks!
Again this year, it was terrific to catch up with Wayne and the impressive cast of former players as well as the campers, some of whom I've gotten to know over the past few years.
In previous years, four teams competed for the prestigious Gretzky Cup. I was part of a Gretzky Cup champion in 2011 (although not a very big part). In fact, I brought the Cup back to our NHL Live studio in New York. Despite my efforts, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg refused my repeated requests for a one-car ticker-tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes. Why not, Michael, why not?!
But I digress.
This year, my team -- coached by Glen Gretzky and Joe Lama and led by former pros Rick Tocchet and Matthew Barnaby as well as four-time Olympic gold medal-winning women's legend Hayley Wickenheiser -- will have to fend off five other teams. That's right, the "Original Four" era is over. The camp has expanded to six teams, making the road to the Cup that much tougher.
On the first day of games, we got off to a good start, beating Team Denis Savard/Marty McSorley, 8-5. Camper Shane Britt, from Fort McMurray, Alberta, led the way, scoring four goals. Heck, I didn't get four shots!
Fraser Neek takes you through the action from the first games at the Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas.
Greetings from sunny and warm Las Vegas, Nevada. Of course, after a winter spent (for the most part) in the Northeast, almost anywhere might be considered sunny and warm.
I arrived on Monday afternoon for practice day. I did not make it in time for either of the two workout sessions run by former Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach Cap Raeder and New York Rangers' skating and skill development coach Mark Ciaccio. Long ago realizing that my game was beyond repair, the coaches decided against fining me.
This year, the coaches have more players to worry about as the camp tournament has expanded from four to six teams. While Raeder and Ciaccio put the campers through their paces on the ice, Walter Gretzky and the other coaches rate the players in preparation for the draft.
Veteran NHL executive John Muckler talks about Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp and Gretzky's influence on hockey in non-traditional hockey markets.
Rookie camper Fraser Neek talks about his first impressions of Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas, NV.
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What we expected is what we got. Very mature young individual that's focused. He is on the right track. He's not only a great hockey individual, but he's a good person off the ice. He seemed to take a leadership role with this group right off the hop and ran away with it, and was vocal, was respectful, was everything it takes to be a Panther. His future looks bright.