Gretzky not in a hurry to get back into NHL

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The Independent Online

While Wayne Gretzky may return to the NHL one day, it will not be as a player.

While Wayne Gretzky may return to the NHL one day, it will not be as a player.

And right now, he does not even want to think about a future in hockey.

"When I retired, I knew I needed to take some time away," he said Saturday night after participating in the ceremonial faceoff Saturday at the Hockey Hall of Fame game.

"I played hockey for 36 years and I loved every minute of it, and I poured everything I had into the game," he said. "I think that I really used up every part that it took to be a hockey player and I just needed a break."

He will be inducted Monday night along with former referee Andy Van Hellemond and former referee-in-chief Scotty Morrison.

Gretzky doesn't even own a pair of skates these days. The last ones he wore, last April, are part of the large Gretzky exhibit in the hall.

"Eventually, somewhere, sometime, I might get back on skates," he said. "When that'll be, I don't know. Right now, I just don't feel like getting dressed."

Gretzky, 38, could be working in an executive capacity for the league or for the New York Rangers.

"I had some hockey opportunities but I felt that wasn't the right thing to do," he said. "I felt that I needed to step back and just enjoy being Wayne Gretzky, the ex-hockey player and the person, and I've had fun with it. It's been enjoyable."

The 19,000 in the Air Canada Centre gave him a 90-second standing ovation.

"This particular event, going into the Hockey Hall of Fame, is the icing on the cake," he said. "This is just something that kind of tops off a fun career."

He said Monday night will be "an occasion for me to thank the people who helped me get into the NHL and be part of this game."

"You don't get there on your own," he said.

Jean Beliveau, Darryl Sittler, Johnny Bower, Milt Schmidt, Dickie Moore and Tony Esposito were among Hall members taking part in the on-ice ceremonies.

Gretzky will one day be in a similar line welcoming former teammates such as Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr and Jari Kurri into the hall.

"I don't want to say I can't wait, because that really gets us old quickly," Gretzky said. "But it'll be something very special when some of the great players I played with go into the Hall of Fame."

Morrison, who is the former president of the Hockey Hall of Fame, says the board of directors discussed holding the Gretzky induction in a building away from the hall to accommodate a large crowd, but Gretzky nixed the plan by telling the board he wanted to go where those before him went.

The Rangers trailed the Leafs 2-0 before Gretzky got to his seat. Toronto wound up winning 4-3 in overtime, dropping New York to 6-12-3-1.

"I've watched a lot of games and when they lose I still feel like I'm part of that group of guys," he said. "They're going through, obviously, a terrible time right now. I know from being around the locker room. I know that mood. The pressure they're under is not fun."

Gretzky's farewell has stretched on and on, from his final game in Canada last April 15, to his Madison Square Garden goodbye April 18, to the special night for him in Edmonton for the Oilers' season opener 1 October.

"Where I place myself among the players of the game, that's for everyone else to debate," he said. "All I know is that I enjoyed it, loved it, and I cared about the game."