Gretzky enjoying his time off

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Turns out, Wayne Gretzky is human after all.

The NHL legend admitted as much Monday morning at Father David Bauer Arena, just moments before hitting the ice with female hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser and 15 contest-winning kids.

“Unfortunately, I’m not going to skate too much. I just had my knee scoped a couple weeks ago,” Gretzky said. “I’ll be able to get out there, stand around and pass the puck, but ...

“I played 21 years and never got hurt and now that I’m retired, playing tennis, I hurt my knee. Tennis is a very physical, demanding sport.”

You could make the argument hockey has been hard on him lately, too, but the Great One doesn’t quite see it that way.

Gretzky is without a home rink for the first time in nearly a decade after getting caught in the crosshairs of the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy saga. When it became obvious he’d lose out regardless of which side won a court-room faceoff between Gary Bettman and Jim Balsillie, the 48-year-old resigned as head coach of the Desert Dogs.

Gretzky, though, insists he’s not bitter.

In fact, he told reporters Monday he’s enjoying the break, having had time to watch plenty of hockey and even hook up with former teammate and fellow coaching casualty Craig MacTavish for a couple of rounds of golf.

One guy who won’t have much spare time over the next six weeks is Steve Yzerman, a recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee and the executive director for Canada’s Olympic men’s hockey entry.

Gretzky was tasked with building Team Canada in 2002 and again in 2006 and knows first-hand that Stevie Y will have his hands full as he prepares to announce his final roster on New Year’s Eve.

“What becomes the challenge or the trickiness behind it is there is a lot of attention paid to who should be on the team and who shouldn’t be on the team,” Gretzky said. “You really have to believe that each person that you select is going to contribute to winning a gold medal. This is the time of year that gets very serious for the management and the coaching staff to make sure they select the right guys for this team.

“There’s always a lot of pressure on the Canadian hockey team,” he added. “Obviously, being in Vancouver, the pressure on this team is probably going to be even greater than it’s been on the teams in the past, but they’ve got good management, they’ve got good coaching and the leadership of the players — guys like Iginla and Crosby, they’ve faced these pressures before and they understand what it’s all about and I’m sure they’re going to be fine.”

And Gretzky?

Thanks for your concern, but it sounds like the NHL’s all-time scoring leader will be just fine, too. In fact, he’s even planning a mid-February family vacation.

“I’m looking forward to going to Vancouver and being part of enjoying watching the games as a Canadian fan,” Gretzky said. “I’ve been three Olympic Games — one as a player and two in management — and when you’re there participating, your focus is really the games and the practises, so you don’t get an opportunity to see a lot of other events.

“Now that I’m really not involved, I can go up there and enjoy all the events with my family. Whether it be skiing, curling, figure-skating or ice hockey, now I can just go as a Canadian fan and enjoy the Games.

“I’m looking forward to it like everyone else.”

Sounds like being unemployed isn’t so bad.


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