Comedy·THE GREAT ONE

Wayne Gretzky encourages graduates to 'be really, really good at hockey' in commencement speech

Gretzky, who dropped out of high school to start his professional career, went on to describe the attributes necessary to be a successful ice hockey player.

EDMONTON, AB—In a commencement address to the graduating class of the University of Alberta this morning, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky encouraged graduates to be brave, hardworking, and "just really, really good" at hockey.

"Your generation has inherited circumstances that point to a highly uncertain future. Recent economic turmoil, geopolitical shocks, and social shifts indicate you will face many difficult challenges in the years ahead," said Gretzky, dressed in a gown and mortarboard. "But in every crisis lies opportunity. So as you graduate today, I have one simple message: be really, really good at hockey."

"Like, as in really, really good," he reiterated.

Gretzky, who dropped out of high school to start his professional career, went on to describe the attributes necessary to be a successful ice hockey player, such as resilience, determination, and strength. He also insisted repeatedly that these qualities were not to be misinterpreted as metaphors for success in non-hockey contexts.

"And just so we're clear, I don't mean inner strength. I mean strength strength. I mean strong enough to skate across the centre line with Doug Gilmour or Guy Carbonneau trying to knock you off the puck," he explained.

"Like, if you have inner strength too, that's great," Gretzky continued. "But inner strength alone isn't gonna cut it. That's a one-way ticket back to the minors. And you won't get paid much down there. No, sir."

The former Edmonton Oilers captain and four-time Stanley Cup champion would go on to reassure the graduates to not let his legendary on-ice accomplishments dissuade them from the value of his advice.

"I know what you're thinking: 'How can I be as good at hockey as a guy who holds 60 NHL records?'" said Gretzky, who scored a record 894 goals over a 20-year career. "But don't worry. You don't have to be great at hockey like me to find success and make an impact on the world. You just have to be really, really good."

Assuming you have superior on-ice vision and stickhandling skills, you have within you the potential to succeed in the direction of your, hopefully hockey-related dreams.- The Great One

"Take for example my good friend, and merely really, really good hockey player, Mario Lemieux," he told his audience, referring to the six-time scoring champion and Pittsburgh Penguins legend. "He only won two Stanley Cups and scored waaaaaay fewer points than me. But he was nonetheless really, really good at hockey."

"And look at all he accomplished: gainful employment, the respect of his peers, and a positive impact on his community," Gretzky added. "We should all be so fortunate. And the most important factor in Mario's success and the peace of mind he enjoys today had nothing to do with the money in his pockets. Or who he knew. It was his being really, really good at hockey."

Gretzky, who was awarded an honourary doctorate of laws before delivering his speech, finished on an optimistic tone before receiving a standing ovation from the packed auditorium.

"The future may be uncertain and progress may feel slowly won," he said. "But, assuming you have superior on-ice vision and stickhandling skills, you have within you the potential to succeed in the direction of your, hopefully hockey-related dreams."

"Now lace up those literal skates and hit that non-figurative ice!" he concluded.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ned Petrie is a Toronto-based writer, actor, and 6-time Canadian Comedy Award nominee. He currently appears on the TV series Blind Sighted (AMI) and Gary & His Demons (Blue Ant Media). Previously, Ned was a writer for Night Sweats (Teletoon) and created the game show pilot The Panel Show for CBC Radio.

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