Wayne Gretzky says there is "100 per cent" no truth to the rumour he will succeed the fired Brian Burke as president of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Great One has mostly stayed away from the game since he resigned as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes on Sept. 24, 2009.
“It was news to me,” Gretzky told Hockey Night in Canada Radio host Elliotte Friedman and co-host Kelly Hrudey on Wednesday when asked if he had heard the rumour floated a day earlier on Twitter by Bob McCown of Toronto sports radio station The Fan 590.
Gretzky said the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings are the only team to have contacted him about a return to the NHL, which he said isn't imminent.
Friedman said there have been reports at various times about third parties approaching Gretzky to gauge his interest in a job with the Maple Leafs.
“Directly? No,” said Gretzky, who's enjoying life in California with his family. “I’ve spent a lot of time with people in the [Maple Leafs] organization but not one time has there even been any direct contact. Really, the only team I’ve talked to about being involved is [general manager] Dean Lombardi and the L.A. Kings.
“I always have good friends of mine who live in southern Ontario, live in the Toronto area, asking if I’m going to be back in hockey and if you ever get back [I] should get back in this area. But I'm enjoying myself here [in Los Angeles] playing golf and getting ready for my [11th] fantasy camp."
Burke was fired on Jan. 9 as Leafs president and GM after four playoff-less seasons on the job.
Gretzky, on the other hand, posted a winning record just once in his four-year stint as Coyotes bench boss, going 143-161-24 overall and missing the playoffs each season.
He continues to watch a lot of NHL games, with the Ottawa Senators catching his eye in the first week of the season with the depth and talent they possess for a young team.
"They're strong on the puck, solid defensively," said Gretzky of the 2-0-0 Senators. "It could be a fun year for people in Ottawa."
In Vancouver, talk of goaltender Roberto Luongo being on the trade block dates back to last season when Cory Schneider emerged as the starter. Gretzky, who was starring for the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s when head coach Glen Sather alternated Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog in net, said the two-goalie system could work for the Canucks this season.
"I’m just guessing [the Canucks will] rotate them through the 48 games and go with the hot goalie in the playoffs," Gretzky said.
In a wide-ranging interview, Gretzky also discussed …
- The Detroit Red Wings' injury situation. They have eight regulars either on injured reserve or questionable for Friday's game against Minnesota. How would Gretzky keep a tough situation positive? “First of all, they have a tremendous general manager [in Ken Holland] and management, strong ownership. They’ve got one of the best coaches [in Mike Babcock] who has ever coached the game and they’ve got a winning tradition. Forget about the injuries. Recently, they’ve had guys like [Tomas] Holmstrom and [Steve] Yzerman and obviously [Nicklas] Lidstrom retire and those guys are Hall of Famers and players you just don’t replace. "When you’re [drafting in position] 29 and 30 [of 30 teams] every year it takes a little time [to build a playoff contender]. The good news for them is they have a solid foundation from management down."
- How can rookie Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates get the best out of star winger Alex Ovechkin? “If you have a go-to guy, you have to ride that pony. You gotta use him. You gotta utilize in the last minute of a period, the first shift of every game. Mark Messier was telling me the year the Rangers won the Stanley Cup [in 1994] his line started every period of every game throughout the entire regular season and playoffs which is a fascinating stat. I think Ovechkin’s one of the top players in the game and you need everybody to rally around that. Adam’s a tremendous student of the game. He thinks the game, he knows the game. I think he’s going to do a great job of getting the most he can out of Ovechkin."
- Are you picking a Stanley Cup winner this year, Wayne? "It’s a funny year because you don’t know who’s going to get injuries in a shortened season. Some teams have the benefit of guys [having] playing in Europe and in Russia [during the lockout]. I think once [L.A. Kings goalie Jonathan] Quick gets his game back on the ‘A’ track they’re going to be a tough team to beat. Right now, the [Anaheim] Ducks are a team to watch. [Ryan] Getzlaf and [Corey] Perry are playing with passion and their goaltender [Jonas Hiller] is good. I like their coach [Bruce Boudreau] a lot. It’s just who gets hot and who’s healthy in the final few games of the season. The good news is for the fans — there are a lot of teams that have a legitimate chance of winning the Stanley Cup and that’s good for the game.