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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final

Fantasy fun in the Vegas sun

Wednesday, 02.09.2011 / 6:08 PM

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer / Gretzky in Vegas

LAS VEGAS -- Canadian actor Alan Thicke of "Growing Pains" fame and Albertan-born rocker Chad Kroeger from the band Nickelback are two of the more than 60 "campers" in Sin City this week. So are NHL PR guru and chief Brian Leetch expert (though he clearly hasn't learned a thing from years of covering him) John Dellapina and "NHL Live" host and plodding winger E.J. Hradek, but that's another story altogether.

It costs $11,000 to participate in Wayne Gretzky's annual fantasy camp, but for these people it was like giving to a charity that benefits themselves. The idea that for four days they can act like pros and play with and against Hall of Famers is priceless to these dreamers. It is absolutely worth the price of admission.

For example, here you have a natural gas tycoon and a wildly successful dentist out of Ottawa skating in practice while Walter Gretzky sits in the stands and jots down some scouting notes about them, grading them with an A, B, C or D.

He loves it. So do the players. How could they not? They are paying to be a pro, and they would probably pay double.

Cap Raeder, Marty McSorley and ex-Coyotes GM and Gretzky agent Mike Barnett were running practices Wednesday at the Las Vegas Ice Center. Mike Keenan was sitting in the bleachers, where he was joined for a short while by Glenn Anderson.

They traded stories and ripped on Barnett for wearing white warm-up pants on the ice.

"He can't be on my coaching staff," screamed Keenan, who will be manning one of the benches opposite Raeder when the games get under way Thursday.

Of course Gretzky is the star of the show here, but Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, Anderson, Bernie Nicholls, Denis Savard Grant Fuhr and Chris Chelios are just some of the legends that will be playing this week.

Dellapina and Hradek are legends in their own mind. In fact, when I asked Walter Gretzky what he thought of No. 8 in gray (Dellapina), he said he didn't even see him, that he was invisible out there.

Sounds about right. Hey, I am also surprised Hradek could make it up and down the ice by the end of the hour-long practice.

I guess surprises really do lurk around every corner of this game.

We all won't be surprised Thursday when we see that a 50-year-old Great One can still skate and feather passes all over the ice.

We can't wait.

NHL Live! will be broadcasting from Wayne Gretzky's fantasy hockey camp on Thursday and Friday from noon-2 p.m. ET. Follow on NHL.com, NHL Network and Sirius/XM radio.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery