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Talking Gretzky...

Saturday, 10.02.2004 / 7:40 PM / History

By NHL.com Staff

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman:
"First of all, it was an honor I think he richly deserved. Secondly, it was kind of easy because I can't imagine anybody ever putting on that number...There was no request from Wayne or his family. This was something, that from a League standpoint, we thought would be the right thing to do. It is a great honor to a great individual who deserves it." (On retiring the #99)

"I think he's brought to this game a level of excellence both on and off the ice that no athlete in any other sport can match. When you think of his 200-point years, when you think of what the Edmonton Oilers did, when you look at the way he's always conducted himself off the ice, the wizardry on the ice. I don't think there's any athlete that's been able to accomplish that in any sport." (On Gretzky's legacy)


Edmonton Oilers General Manager Glen Sather:
"I'm happy for Wayne because he did it the way he wanted to do it and there aren't many athletes that have been able to do that. It doesn't surprise me that Wayne could, because if anybody could do it, he certainly can. But I'm sad for the world of hockey and the fans that he has around the National Hockey League. He's meant so much to everyone and we're all going to miss him."

"If you ever stop and talked to him about the game or how things happened, he can recall every event. It's very easy for him. When I was coaching, sometimes you'd be talking to another player, and you look around and (you missed) something that happened. I'd just go ask Wayne. He could tell me not only where our team was on the ice, he could tell me where everybody on the other team was at the same time. He had total recall of everything that happened during the games, and that was from the first minute to the end of the game." (On Gretzky's hockey intelligence)


Hall-of-Famer Phil Esposito:
"I remember I was with him when he broke the goal-scoring record in Buffalo. I followed him around two games. I said to him, 'You're gonna do it, please, I got to get home.' And I was with him there."

"But one thing I've learned in this business, I'm very proud of what I did in this game. And for Wayne Gretzky to come along and break the records, if somebody ever comes along and breaks Wayne's record, I think it will be a miracle. Wayne will do what I did. Hey, look, that's part of the game. At least you were the first to do these things, and that's what I'm most proud of."


Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Paul Coffey:
"He's such a great hockey player. Sitting there in the first period, I watched him make a pass over four sticks that nobody could make but him. He's just a great student of the game and understands the game and profession. That's what makes him such a great player."


Vancouver Canucks captain Mark Messier:
"It was tremendously emotional tonight, for myself and a lot of people that Wayne has been in contact with for his career. I've been pretty welled up with emotion for the last three or four days, really since Ottawa. Just reflecting on the past 20 years and seeing Wayne and the whole thing, it has been pretty sad to see it all come down."

"His whole career has been handled with complete class and dignity and he's never belittled anybody that he's ever been associated with, from the media to the players to the trainers to the coaches or anything else. He's well aware of how important everybody was to the whole scheme of things, and it's just an amazing career. What can you say? We've all analyzed it and evaluated it and talked about it, but when you really look at it, it's just an amazing career that he had. Not only for what he's done on the ice, but what he did off the ice and the amount of effort that it took to do the things that he did, and dedication and just a will to be successful. The will to succeed was amazing." (On Gretzky's career)

"I wouldn't have missed it for the world. It was kind of fun sitting in the crowd tonight and just watching the whole show come down from a fan perspective. We don't often get the opportunity to sit in the stands with the people and hear the comments. That's what I really wanted to do tonight, is really come here -- and I know it's hard because of all the things going on -- and just try to take it all in like a fan would. And sit in the seats and watch the game. It was a great way to see him play his last game." (On attending the game)

"There's a tremendous amount of emotion in the building tonight. I felt that we were witnessing something very special. I thought (there was) no better fitting place for Wayne to end his career than three years in New York, and his last game and the biggest stage in the world. It just seems fitting. But it seems that everything that went along with his career seemed to be like that. He almost scored a goal towards the end of the game, and Paul Coffey and I were sitting by the boards. We said, how many times did we see this happen -- he came off the bench, the puck was on the stick and he scored the goal. And it almost happened again. It was just a great evening."


Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux:
"I wanted to be here. It's a very special day. I certainly have mixed emotions. I'm happy for Wayne because I think he's making the right decision. He's accomplished so much throughout his career. The other side is hockey's losing the greatest player ever. And that's why it's sad. But I'm happy for him and his family, and I wish him nothing but the best."


Janet Jones Gretzky:
"The last week has been very emotional for us, leading up to this. Right now it seems like it's going by too fast. It's a very surreal feeling. It's nice that we have all these cameras around that they can kind of remind us what it's all about, because it's fast."


Detroit Red Wings defenseman Ulf Samuelsson
"It's obviously a special event and a special person getting honored like this and having the opportunity to play with him in some senses made it more special. I managed to squeeze the day off from Detroit, so I took the opportunity to fly back here and watch. It wasn't easy. I did some maneuvering with Scotty Bowman." (On the importance of being at the game)


Ranger rookie Manny Malhotra:
"He's taught me a lot. On the ice, he's always giving me pointers as to where I can be in a better position or how I can improve my game. But off the ice, you look at how classy he is and how he carries himself everywhere. You always pick up on those things more than anything." (On what he has learned from Gretzky)

"Being on the inside of it, there are times when it doesn't seem like that big a deal. But you go home you turn on the TV and its on every channel you realize just how big an event this is today. I feel fortunate to be a part of it."


Rangers forward Adam Graves:
"I don't think that anyone's been a greater ambassador to any particular sport than Wayne has been to hockey. Without him, I don't think we'd have the number of teams we have today, nor would hockey have the notoriety and the support that it has. And I don't think it's just because of what he's done on the ice. I think more importantly it's the type of man he is, and his people skills and the way he makes everyone feel special. That's just a credit to him as a person." (On Gretzky's contribution to hockey )


Walter Gretzky:
"It seems like just yesterday he skated for the first time, and now it's finished...I just can't find words to describe how nice it is. And of course, we're so proud of Wayne, certainly of his hockey ability -- the things that he's accomplished -- but more so the person that he is." (On the tribute to Wayne)


Ranger captain Brian Leetch:
"It was a lot of fun. I was able to be on the ice with Wayne for most of the shifts out there. We were certainly trying to score some goals out there. It was fun sitting on the bench and watching the clips of Wayne at different times."

"It was great. I wanted to be on that score sheet with him someway tonight and after we scored at the end of the second, I re-taped my stick like I usually do and I was looking at it and I said, you know, I really shouldn't take this out on the ice in case it breaks or something so Wayne had just given me one of the sticks that he had signed so I took those two and put them in the back." (On scoring the last goal Gretzky assisted on)

Quote of the Day

We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff