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Gretzky: Oilers, fans 'deserve some happiness'

Wayne Gretzky spoke about why the Oilers are successful and how it has excited Oil Country

by Paul Gazzola /

The Great one is back in The Golden State, where he was once an ambassador for the game of hockey

Now, he's the NHL Centennial ambassador for the NHL All-Star Weekend.

Gretzky spoke about the current Oilers, who are 26-15-8 and truly emerging as a strong hockey team. 

For The Great One, it's been a series of wise organizational decisions that have helped pave the way for the club to be successful.

"The franchise really started to turn a corner and change when Bob Nicholson came in," started Gretzky. "Of course, hiring Peter (Chiarelli) and Peter's done just a tremendous job right out of the get-go. He hired a great coach [Todd McLellan] and a great coaching staff. So, once you put all the pieces of the puzzle together from the beginning it makes everything sort of fall in the line."

The sequence of managerial moves then made an impact on the roster.

"[Chiarelli] made a really nice trade in getting a really solid goaltender [Cam Talbot] who's been a workhorse," Gretzky continued. "It's no secret that signing [Kris] Russell has changed the culture of the team and the organization."

A bolstered backend, some size up front and maturity from the youngsters have also facilitated the process.

"In the past, maybe people would have said the weakness on the team might have been on the defensive end but that's been so strongly shored up," said No. 99. "Size was a factor, trading for [Patrick] Maroon and signing [Milan] Lucic [helped] and the young guys just getting more and more confidence and the team playing together as a team."

Regardless of the role, the Oilers have united as a squad. 

"It doesn't matter if you play three minutes a night or 23 minutes a game, you have to give your biggest and most important input every single night and every single shift and you see that with the hockey club. It's still a very, very young club that's only going to get better in the future."

Without a doubt, the buzz in Rogers Place, ICE District and Oil Country is prevalent.

"You sense the energy in the city, you sense it in the arena now, you sense it in the locker room with the players and within the organization," Gretzky said. "It's really infectious. Everybody is really excited.

"The people of Edmonton and the organization themselves and the players who are here, they deserve some happiness. It's good to see that everybody is smiling and hockey's doing really well and it's fun to watch the Oilers play."

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