WATCH ABOVE: While in the Capital Region to support his son and his hockey camp, Wayne Gretzky stopped to talk to the media Monday following news of the new “Ice District.” Gretzky also weighed in on Connor McDavid and Dustin Johnson’s golf career.
EDMONTON — At a time when it seems as though Oilers fans couldn’t get any more excited about hockey, the Great One made an appearance in the Capital Region.
Wayne Gretzky was in St. Albert Monday to support his son, Ty Gretzky, who is hosting his hockey camp at Servus Place this week. Now in its second year, the Gretzky Hockey School focuses on the love of the game.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure that the kids, when they leave here each and every day, that they say it’s a fun day,” said Gretzky.
“Nobody is going to come to this camp over five days and become the next Mark Messier, that’s not going to happen. But they can all leave here enjoying the game and learning to understand that the game is fun and the enjoyment of playing hockey is what makes the best players even that much better.
“The bottom line is you gotta love it.”
A perfect example of that, Gretzky said, is Connor McDavid.
“He’s a good hockey player that just loves to play,” he said. “When a guy can almost average three points a game in junior hockey in this day and age, that’s telling you this guy’s a pretty good hockey player… He’s a phenom.”
When asked about the pressures McDavid might face playing in a passionate hockey city like Edmonton, Gretzky said he’s not worried.
“He’s a really mature kid for 18 years old, he’s been under the spotlight for a long time, he’s handled himself both on the ice and off the ice with nothing but respect and class,” he said. “He’s going to love playing here, it couldn’t be a better scenario for him. It’s great for the Oilers fans, they’re going to get the chance to watch this kid grow up.”
“The thing about playing in Edmonton is, the people here, they’ve been through it with myself and they’ve been through Messier… they’re going to let him be, they’re going to treat him like an Edmontonian.”
WATCH: Gretzky weighs in on McDavid playing in Edmonton
Earlier Monday, the official name of the region surrounding the Oilers new home was announced. When Rogers Place opens downtown in 2016, it will be part of what will be known as Ice District.
Gretzky, who owns a chain of restaurants under his name, hinted that a business opportunity might present itself with the new Ice District.
“I would consider opening a restaurant anywhere in Edmonton. I’ve had some really good conversations with the Oilers and Bob Nicholson for the past year and a half and we’ll see what happens down the road,” he said. “It’s a wonderful city and it’s going to be a great venue so hopefully we can come to some sort of an agreement.”
While he’ll no doubt be watching McDavid in the Copper and Blue this season and beyond, Gretzky’s life has taken a turn towards golf, watching his daughter’s partner, Dustin Johnson, on the PGA Tour.
Gretzky compared Johnson’s rough showing at the U.S. Open to the first time he lost in the Stanley Cup Finals.
“I know he was devastated and he was really shook up, but after a couple days spending time at the lake, playing a little bit of golf, he refocused and recharged and I think he’s going to have a really good British Open.”
But Gretzky won’t be supporting Johnson in person this time; instead, he’ll be taking on his role as grandfather.
“We’ve got the grandson,” he said. “We’re going to sit this one out and stay home and watch it on TV… so that’s pretty nice too.”
With files from Quinn Phillips, Global Sports.