What he said
Gretzky spoke to reporters on Monday before he attended the Hall of Fame ceremony.
On the inductees:
"It's a great honour for them. Obviously outstanding hockey players, they're all champions, and they're all really great guys. ... I played with most of those guys, other than Stevie [Yzerman], and we played in a World Cup together."
On still being involved in the NHL:
"It is what it is right now. Right now it's just my time to sit back, and enjoy my kids. And you know what? The game is bigger than any individual or any person. Right now, it's just not part of my life. It's a simple as that."
On any lingering bitterness with the league:
"No, not at all. What's there to be upset by? It's the greatest game in the world, there's nothing better than our sport, I'm very proud of it. And life goes on."
On the Coyotes:
"Like I said from day one, it's really not my issue — this was an issue between Mr. Moyes, the parties trying to buy the team, and the National Hockey League. It had nothing to do with me.
"Phoenix is a great city, and I hope it does well there, and I hope the people of Southern Ontario one day get their wish and get an NHL franchise. My opinion hasn't changed since the first day this all transpired."
Lou Lamoriello's 67-year-old eyes did not deceive him. He did see Wayne Gretzky in his downtown Toronto hotel lobby on Monday morning, and the Great One will attend the Hockey Hall of Fame formal proceedings in the evening, according to Gretzky’s agent, Darren Blake.
Whether Gretzky will grace the induction ceremony with his presence in the Great Hall has been a talking point surrounding this year's festivities.
No. 99 is miffed with the NHL at the way he was treated in the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes, and has gone underground since he quit as coach of the financially challenged team eight weeks ago.
Gretzky was a former teammate of inductees Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, Luc Robitaille and Steve Yzerman. He has tremendous respect for Lamoriello, the New Jersey Devils general manager — and Gretzky's close friend, St. Louis Blues president John Davidson, was honoured Monday morning with the Foster Hewitt Award for his contributions to hockey broadcasting.
How this Lamoriello sighting got started was when Hull was asked for the latest news on whether Gretzky would show.
"There are a whole bunch of rumours," Hull said. "He texted me [on Sunday] and said he wasn't. But then Lou Lamoriello said he saw him checking into the hotel this morning.
"I believe he's here, but I don't have any clue. I sure hope he's here, because it would mean a lot to everybody."
Including Lamoriello, who was asked to explain his Gretzky sighting.
"I believe I did see Wayne check in, yes," Lamoriello confirmed earlier.
Gretzky's good friend, Darren Pang, a former Blackhawks goalie and Blues television analyst, was asked earier for his thoughts on the possibility. He had said he been in contact with No. 99 and the latest was that Gretzky was working on it and there was a slim chance he would attend the induction ceremony.
The issue of whether the NHL should impose a ban on headshots was a hot topic of discussion put forth by reporters to the Hockey Hall of Fame inductees on Monday morning.
The latest controversial headshot happened when Calgary's Curtis Glencross caught Chris Drury with a blindside hit that gave the Rangers captain a concussion in a game on Saturday. Glencross was suspended for three games for the incident.
Luc Robitaille believes it's more of an issue of respecting opponents, something that went out the window when the instigator rule came into effect and the players stopped policing each other.
To further his point, he talked about the pest role and how prominent it has become in today's game. The pest was not as evident in the past because that type of player would eventually meet up with a Bob Probert or a player of that ilk.
Red Wings vice-president Steve Yzerman, whose own general manager, Ken Holland, supports a ban on blindside hits, remarked the NHL has to be careful because of a fine line because clean and cheapshot hits.
"It's a violent game, it's a physical game and there is always going to be injuries," Yzerman said. "I don't believe they should be changing the rules and suspending guys for clean body checks. Unfortunately, a player getting caught with his head down is a clean body check.
"It's not a headshot when you get caught with you head down. It's different when you throw an elbow at a guy or run his head into the glass … I just don't see how you can change it without taking hitting out of the game.
Yzerman even has a hard time banishing blindside hits, like the one Philadelphia's Mike Richards put on Florida forward David Booth.
"When I was growing up, my dad always said, coaches always said, 'Keep your head up cutting across the middle,'" Yzerman stated. "Coaches always said 'don't admire your passes when cutting into the middle. Look this way, don't be looking back.'
"I'd be more comfortable with watching every hit and [determining] why it was a legal hit or an illegal hit, based on my experience as a player. On the blindside hit, you watch if it was late or not. It's not scientific, but again that is my view from being in the league a long time.
"I think there is a point that when a player passes the puck, there is an obligation from the other player to say it's too long I can't hit him. But having said that, players have to know they can't look back, they need to keep their head up."
Yzerman, Robitaille, Leetch, Hull and Lamoriello received their HHOF rings in a ceremony on Monday morning. They reflected on how much their parents played a role in their development as well as others, and each inductee also pondered what Gretzky meant at different points to their careers.
Consulted for Olympic advice
Yzerman still seeks out advice from Gretzky. Yzerman has replaced Gretzky as the executive director of the Canadian men's Olympic team and has traded a couple of emails in the hopes of receiving some counsel.
"For the time being, he has indicated to me that he was going to sit back and lay low for a little while," said Yzerman, who was a teammate of Gretzky's in the 1984 Canada Cup, 1996 World Cup and 1998 Canadian Olympic team. "In my last email, I told him that I had a few things I wanted to run by him and that I would give him a call."
A few weeks ago, Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi remarked that he planned to approach Gretzky about a front-office position with his former team.
Robitaille is the Kings' president of business operations and also talked to Gretzky about the possibility. Robitaille wouldn't rule out Gretzky joining the Kings down the road, but right now he wants to get away from hockey and spend time with his family.
"You look at what he's done for the NHL by himself," said Robitaille, who played with Gretzky on both the Kings and New York Rangers. "By moving to Los Angeles, I'm a firm believer that nine new franchises appeared — and he had a lot to do with that.
"No player in the history of the game, probably in any sport, has had that kind of impact to their sport. He deserves to be treated with respect for what he has brought our game."
Hull briefly played with Gretzky in St. Louis at the end of the 1995-96 regular season and two rounds of the playoffs.
"To tell my grandkids that Wayne Gretzky was once my centreman and teammate is a huge thrill as well," Hull said.
"Wayne's influence on me was similar to my dad's [legend Bobby Hull], in that it was from a distance. We became good friends [later]. We didn't play the same way, but just watching him, those were some more footsteps that if you want to be known as a great player you have to be able to do some of the things he did. You know, score goals and be a winner and being able to reach for those stars — it makes you a better player."
Gretzky played the final three seasons with the New York Rangers and made defenceman Brian Leetch a better player. The two were excellent in the Rangers' five-game victory over Lamoriello's Devils in the second round of the playoffs in 1997.
"Wayne Gretzky, to me, is without question what the NHL is all about," Lamoriello said. "What he has done for the game, I don't think anybody could articulate or do him justice.
"I've got to know him in many different capacities. He's a gentleman and he symbolizes what our great game is all about."