Hradek: Road to Gretzky Cup has its bumps

Wednesday, 03.12.2014 / 10:25 AM | EJ Hradek  - NHL.com Analyst

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!

At that point, we would've been better off going for a long, long lunch. In the second of our back-to-back games (we were really tired; excuse, excuse), Team Theo Fleury/Shayne Corson kicked the living daylights out of us, 10-0! Things got so bad, Glen waved the white towel of surrender in the final moments.

Ouch!

Scott and Steve Smitke, big, young brothers from Calgary, were difference makers for the winners in that nasty butt-kicking. Afterward, our group felt like the Vancouver Canucks.

Still, we vow to push forward in a doubleheader Wednesday. I'm looking forward to some coaching adjustments as well as an inspirational speech from Tocchet. If we can get a split, we move onto the semifinals Thursday. Even though this isn't Mark Messier's camp, I'm guaranteeing we'll get the win we need.

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