Wayne Gretzky: The NHL Season Will be Saved

Wayne Gretzky, seen with Mark Messier at Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, feels optimistic about the NHL season. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

NHL fans feeling steadily more despondent by the tone of lockout negotiation news, take heart: The Great One feels the season can be saved.

Wayne Gretzky was at a financial planning workshop in Toronto on Oct. 1 and the talk turned to something other than 401(k)s and stock portfolios when he was asked about how he feels the lockout will proceed and end.

“I believe in my heart, maybe because I’m such a big hockey fan, that they will be playing by Jan. 1,” he said. Jan. 1 is the date of the 2013 Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Such a big, televised, publicized event didn’t exist in 2004-05′s negotiations, which could provide some leverage. (Of course, there have been reports that the league could cancel the Winter Classic as soon as sometime in November and as late as pretty much the day of the event.)

He noted the differences in style between the negotiations of the last lockout and this one.

“I think the hard part … was the last negotiations [in 2005] when players agreed to a salary cap. Now that there is a salary cap in place and revenue sharing, I ultimately think a deal will get done here and [they will be] playing hockey this year,” he said.

Of course, Gretzky hung up the skates in 1999, so he only experienced the partially locked-out season of 1994-95, not the completely obliterated 2004-05 campaign. That might be a good thing for him.

“There’s no way I could have taken a year off because there is no way I would have known what to do in the middle of my career taking a year off,” he said. “That was my life.”

He’s held this line before, saying just before the lockout began that he felt it would be short like the 1994-95 one. At that time, Bobby Orr agreed.

“I just can’t believe they won’t get together,” he said. “There may be a short delay, but I can’t believe it will be more than a short time. It would be so silly.”

Let’s just hope that two of the biggest names to play the game are right.

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