Muckler defends Great One

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:37 PM ET

John Muckler did a good job yesterday defending the greatest offensive player ever.

When media members who generally don't cover sports showed up at Scotiabank Place yesterday looking for a reaction to allegations of Rick Tocchet's gambling habits and Wayne Gretzky's possible involvement or knowledge of them, Muckler was naturally sought out.

While admitting that charges "came out of the blue and caught everybody off guard," Gretzky's former coach and longtime friend stood up for him.

"I've know this man, he's one of the best people I've known in my life," said the Senators GM. "Wayne is going to do the right thing. He hasn't done anything wrong."

Asked if he thinks Gretzky should still accompany Team Canada to Turin, despite the possible distractions his presence might cause, Muckler was emphatic.

"I think Wayne has the utmost respect of every person in the industry and outside it," said Muckler. "The majority feel the way I do. He will continue to be the great leader he is."

Bryan Murray also feels strongly that Gretzky should go to the Olympics.

"Absolutely," said the Senators coach. "I don't know why you'd think otherwise at this point."

Muckler did express concern about the extra workload the Games will bring the nine Senators who will represent their countries.

These days, it looks like almost all Ottawa players could use the break to recharge for the final two months of the NHL season and the playoffs.

"If I had my druthers, I wouldn't want to see them go," he said. "But they have an obligation to go.

"Is this going to hurt them? Maybe, and maybe it won't. Maybe it'll be a wake-up call. Maybe they'll see the work ethic needed to be a champion. Maybe this will help us.

"I think the teams that don't have anybody going are happy, they feel their guys are going to get a good rest. But we've got to stay positive and use this to our advantage."

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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