SUN Hockey Pool

There's nothing to Fuhr

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

CALGARY -- Wayne Gretzky and Grant Fuhr are two of the coolest customers to ever grace the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Nothing rattled them, nothing ruffled them, nothing ever made them nervous. No matter what the situation, they always seemed in complete control.

Then they had their numbers retired in Edmonton.

On those nights, neither were any match for the rush of emotions that comes from seeing your dynasty sweater lifted to the rafters while the building you made famous rises for one last standing ovation.

They thought they were, but they weren't.

"It's overwhelming," said Gretzky, the first member of Edmonton's dynasty to receive the honour. "When you start out as a hockey player, you're just hoping to make the team and play in the NHL. Paul and I go back a long way and when we were young we never talked about any of this (Stanley Cups, the Hall of Fame and retired numbers). It was always dreaming that we would one day play in the NHL.

REMINISCING

"So when you have a night like this, you start reminiscing about all the great memories you had as a team. The championships, and the hard work that went into winning them."

Fuhr, the most recently honoured Hall of Famer, lost it when the spotlight hit him in the crease and the crowd went nuts.

"I thought I prepared myself for it, but you never really prepare yourself for it," said Fuhr, now a full-time goaltending coach in Phoenix. "You sit and you think about it, you think about it, and all of a sudden it just happens. And that's the toughest thing - you don't really get yourself set for it."

Tonight is Paul Coffey's turn, and as fate, the schedule maker and a little jiggling from Kevin Lowe would have it, Gretzky and Fuhr will both be here to help celebrate the occasion.

"I know Paul is pretty shy, but I know he's looking forward to it and he's excited about it," said Gretzky, making his first trip to Edmonton as the new head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes.

"But more importantly his family gets to be a part of it. Paul's kids never really saw a lot of him or understood what he was all about in Edmonton. They'll get to see how the people in Edmonton love him and can be part of his celebration."

As they look back now at one of the two most electrifying blue-liners who ever played, Gretzky and Fuhr still shake their heads.

"I had the best view of him, it was great for me," said Fuhr, who could see all of those breathtaking end-to-end rushes from their takeoff point. "Paul had an ability to make the game look easy. If you watched him skate it looked like it was effortless. The rest of us made it look awfully hard."

Most consider Bobby Orr to be the greatest defenceman of all time, and it's pretty hard to argue that, but when it comes down to pure skating ability, that's where No. 7 might just have the edge over No. 4.

"We could argue all day long about each player, their contribution to the game," said Gretzky, who named his daughter Paulina in Coffey's honour.

"But I've always said this: If Bobby Orr was a better skater than Paul Coffey he must have been the greatest skater that ever lived, because Paul Coffey was an incredible skater. I'm not saying he wasn't as good as Bobby Orr or that he's better than Bobby Orr, all I'm saying is that he is the greatest skater I ever saw when I played.

'IDOLIZED ORR'

"I know Paul idolized Bobby Orr, he did a lot of things Bobby Orr did. He changed the game, Paul. He could get the puck and go end to end and turn a 2-1 deficit into a 2-2 tie with one swoop of Grant stopping the puck and him going all the way down the ice.

"He was a pretty special player, right from the time he was 18 and came to the Oilers. Glen (Sather) let him be himself and never tried to lasso him, just let him go ... and he went."


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