EDMONTON, AB - Standing before a semi-circle of cameras and media members in the Oilers Hall of Fame Room on Wednesday, Oilers Entertainment Group Partner and Vice Chair Wayne Gretzky provided advice to this year's Hlinka Gretzky Cup players competing in Edmonton and Red Deer.
"We don't know the future for any of these kids but I would give them the same advice Gordie Howe gave me: you got to be the hardest working player every night. If you work hard, good things happen," said The Great One, who holds 40 all-time regular season NHL records.
Gretzky furthered his notion by relating it to a few of his former Oilers teammates.
"I've always found that guys who love the game the most work the hardest and put the most time in," he continued. "It's not a big secret why Mark Messier or Paul Coffey, why those guys are in the Hall of Fame: because they loved to play. Each and every game, the bigger the game, the more excited they got and the better they played.
"That's what you want to get out of kids."
Video: RAW | Wayne Gretzky
Gretzky, who finished his career with 894 goals, 1963 assists and 2857 points in 1487 games, said he had a chance to speak with some of the players before the tournament started.
"I met with the kids before Game 1 and said, 'This is something you're never going to forget. Work hard and you're going to love it. It's a great game.'"
The four-time Stanley Cup champion couldn't help but praise Rogers Place as the marquee facility for the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, which returns to Canada for the first time since 1996 when it was held in Nelson and Castlegar, BC.
"This arena is probably the most beautiful hockey arena in North America," Gretzky added. "For the kids to come in here to get a chance to play in this arena, I know if I was 16 and 17, I would be pretty excited about it."