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All-Star Game

Pacific players thrilled to have Gretzky on bench as honorary captain

'It was awesome' experience to get advice from NHL's all-time leading scorer, Flames forward Tkachuk said

by William Douglas @WDouglasNHL.com / NHL.com Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- Wayne Gretzky offered one piece of advice to the offensively gifted Pacific Division players at the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Enterprise Center on Saturday.

"He was actually preaching 'Let's make sure we have a third guy high and let's make sure we don't give up too many crazy chances," Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk said. "It was funny, the best scorer, best player in the world, the best scorer saying that. It was awesome."

Gretzky, the NHL's all-time leading scorer, was on the bench as honorary captain for the Pacific Division, which defeated the Atlantic Division 5-4 in the championship game following a 10-5 win against the Central Division in the semifinals.

 

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Most of the players echoed Tkachuk's description of what it was like to have Gretzky on the bench displaying the same intensity and competitive spirit that he showed as a player who scored 2,857 points (894 goals, 1,963 assists) in 1,487 games in 20 NHL seasons.

"To hear him get intense, to hear him talking about plays and players on the ice from the best ever is something special, and I'll always remember it," Vegas Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty said. "He wanted to win. He still has the fire in the belly. He's walking around now, he's so happy with everyone, so I know he had a lot of fun."

Video: Gretzky talks about returning to St. Louis

Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl said Gretzky was a good coach who told the team to 'try whatever he used to do,' but Draisaitl said that was impossible.

Calgary Flames goalie David Rittich said Gretzky wasn't just a vocal presence on the bench.

"He was with us in the locker room," Rittich said. "We just took a picture with him, so it's probably going to be framed."

Gretzky said he was impressed by the talent of the players but also by their humanitarianism. 

"I'm more impressed by the maturity of the people that they are and what they do for their communities and what they do for the National Hockey League," he said. "I really enjoyed being back there."

Video: Pacific defeats Atlantic to win NHL All-Star Game

Gretzky is no stranger to coaching. He went 143-161-24 with the Phoenix Coyotes from 2005-09 before stepping down. He was selected to 18 NHL All-Star Games and represented the Oilers from 1980-88 and the Los Angeles Kings from 1988-96 (there was no game in 1995).

On Saturday, he was on the bench with Pacific coach Rick Tocchet, his friend and coach of the Coyotes. Tocchet was named to replace Gerard Gallant, who was fired by the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 15.

Tocchet, who was a four-time All-Star Game participant as a player (1989, 1990, 1991, 1993), was coaching his first All-Star Game. He was the second Coyotes coach to participate in an All-Star Game, joining Jim Schoenfeld in 1999.

Tocchet said Gretzky reminded him that he's 2-0 in All-Star Games as a coach, referring to when he coached the Metropolitan Division to a 4-3 win against the Pacific Division at the 2017 All-Star Game in Los Angeles after Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella missed the game because of a family emergency.

"I told him that's why I signed him up," Tocchet said. "Good free agent pick-up."

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