Prime Minister Stephen Harper, centre, speaks with hockey legends Gordie Howe, left, and Wayne Gretzky at a sports celebrity dinner in Saskatoon Friday night. ((Troy Fleece/Canadian Press))

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a serious hockey buff, played the role of interviewer Friday night as he quizzed NHL legends Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky at a Saskatoon charity event.

The trio's chit-chat emulated a Hockey Night In Canada feature, The Hotstove, as Howe and Gretzky answered questions ranging from the state of the game today, to their thoughts on career longevity.

"What's the secret to longevity?" Harper asked, as members of the audience chuckled. Harper leads a minority government in Ottawa.

"Maybe I'm asking [that question] personally," he added, sensing the knowing elbow-nudges from the crowd. "How do you stick around for a while?"

The question drew hearty laughs from the audience of 1,200, who paid $300 per plate to attend the 50th annual Kinsmen dinner.

Unfortunately, the hockey legends' answers were not picked up by news microphones.

Harper appeared relaxed amid the superstar guests and genuinely engaged in the topic.

"What was your best single moment in hockey?" Harper asked.

Howe, 81, did not hesitate and answered: "When I met Colleen," his wife of 55 years who died in March 2009.

Gretzky, 49, recalled a number of fond memories from his playing days.

"The very first time I played in the NHL," Gretzky said, recalling he was on the ice against Stan Mikita, a hockey star of the day.

"And there's nothing like lifting the Stanley Cup for the first time," Gretzky added.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, speaks with hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. ((Troy Fleece/Canadian Press))

Harper also quizzed Gretzky about Canada's chances in hockey at the upcoming winter Olympic Games, in Vancouver.

"Going into the Olympic Games, it comes down to a couple things," Gretzky said.

"Goaltending," he said was one key element. "And secondly, your best players play at the calibre they are capable of playing at under high scrutiny. Then they will be fine."