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NHL Heritage Classic

Wayne Gretzky unhappy with return to ice

Says 'I stink' after Oilers alumni lose to former Jets in Winnipeg

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / LNH.com Senior Managing Editor

WINNIPEG -- The Stinky One?

That might be pushing it, but Wayne Gretzky was not very impressed with his play in the 2016 Rogers NHL Heritage Classic Alumni Game at Investors Group Field on Saturday.

"I stink," Gretzky said, laughing. "I'm really bad."

Gretzky and his Edmonton Oilers alumni teammates lost 6-5 to the Winnipeg Jets alumni on a penalty shot by Teemu Selanne in the final seconds, but one of the biggest attractions was seeing Gretzky on the ice playing hockey in public again.

He hadn't played in an alumni game since the first Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton in 2003, so watching Gretzky skate with his old Oilers linemates Jari Kurri and Dave Semenko was a thrill unto itself.

But Gretzky, the NHL's all-time leading scorer with 894 goals and 2,857 points in 1,487 games, did not get a point.

"Mark [Messier] went down and he snapped that first goal and went down and snapped the second one and I was like, 'Oh my God, he can still play,'" Gretzky said. "Nobody's thinking that about Wayne Gretzky."

Video: POST-GAME RAW | Gretzky, Messier and Coffey

But there was a moment early in the game when Gretzky showed everyone he is indeed The Great One.

In the first period, Gretzky got the puck behind the goal line, where he often did his most damage during his playing days, and skated the puck toward the corner. Then, out of nowhere, he quickly spun and blindly whipped a backhand pass into the slot right onto the tape of defenseman Paul Coffey.

"Did you see what I did with it?" Coffey asked when Gretzky was questioned about the play.

What Coffey did was have the puck bounce harmlessly off his stick, squandering a premium scoring chance from the slot.

"It was a beautiful pass," Coffey said. "It was a glimpse of 1982."

Then Coffey turned to Gretzky and asked what everyone else who saw the play was probably wondering.

"Did you see me there or was that one of those eyes-in-the-back-of-your-head passes?" Coffey said.

"I saw you in the glass," Gretzky said.

Perfect.

"No. 99 looked unreal to me," Oilers alumnus Craig MacTavish said. "He's got that capability, he's always had that capability. He sees the ice better than anybody that's ever played. That probably doesn't go. The body will go, but that probably doesn't go."

Still, the game Saturday was a difficult one for Gretzky, and he has no problem with that. He only plays hockey once a year over several days at his annual fantasy camp in Las Vegas, but that does not have quite same competitive element the alumni game had on Saturday.

"It's hard now when it's tough to tie up your laces," he said.

It's difficult to imagine any of Gretzky's legions of fans cared much about how he thought he played, or how he was held off the scoresheet or how the Oilers lost the game. Seeing Gretzky in an Oilers uniform playing the game he helped take to new heights was reward enough.

And hopefully those fans were paying attention to what was happening Saturday, because they may never see it again.

"I'm 56 in two months," said Gretzky, whose birthday is Jan. 26. "I'm not doing a road show, but that might have been my last game."

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