AP Images

Wayne Gretzky on KRS global ambassador role, 2022 Olympics

4 Comments

A day before the 30th anniversary of his famous (sale) trade to the Los Angeles Kings, Wayne Gretzky was named as global ambassador for Beijing’s Kunlun Red Star, which has a team in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

“We’ve been working on this for close to two years,” Gretzky told reporters during the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in Edmonton. “The Chinese people and the Chinese business community has really rallied around ice hockey because they’re hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics, so they really want to have a good showing, so they’ve built these academies. They have one in Canada and one in the United States.”

Gretzky and his son Ty, who founded the Gretzky Hockey School in 2014, will head to China in September and run a camp and look into building additional rinks in the country. While they’re there the Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames will be playing games in Shenzhen and Beijing.

“The Chinese people have really rallied around hockey,” he said. “Somebody told me that last year Pittsburgh and Nashville had 36 million people in China that watched Game 6. So it shows you what size of a market it is. It’s pretty amazing. So, good on the NHL for realizing that, and they’ve stepped in. They’ve been over there last year. They’re really trying to put a bit of an imprint of our game and our sport in China and it just only helps make our game bigger.”

One of the bigger unresolved topics in the NHL is whether the league and its players will come to an agreement to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The NHL did not go to Pyeongchang, South Korea this past February, citing that it didn’t seem beneficial to shut the league down for two weeks and not get anything in return from the International Ice Hockey Federation or International Olympic Committee.

But with preseason games in China now two years in a row, a league partnership with ORG Packaging, which is based in Beijing, and a massive untapped market, there are enough wheels moving in the right direction that could end with a return to the Olympics in four years time.

“I’ve made no secret that I believe the players should be at the Olympics,” said Gretzky, who was the Executive Director of Canada’s gold medal winning men’s team at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. “I think it’s special, I think it rallies the country, the players love to play in it. Hopefully they can come to an agreement, the league and the union, and we can get the best players back into the Olympics.”

Even with his stature around the game, Gretzky shied away from saying whether this opportunity could open a door for the NHL and NHLPA to find a way to participate at Beijing 2022. That’s for Commissioner Gary Bettman, the 31 owners and the Players’ Association to figure out, he said.

“Listen, I’ve made no secret. I think it’s great for guys like Connor [McDavid] and [Leon] Draisaitl playing in the Olympics,” he said. “It was great for me, it was great for Sidney [Crosby]. I’d love to see those kids get that chance.”

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

McDavid, Gretzky, Toews to be enshrined in toast

Canadian Tire
6 Comments

Ever wanted the face of (a hockey) God etched on the side of your toast as you awake from your nightly slumber?

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to give the gift of toast during the holiday season.

By some well-timed divine intervention, your prayers have been answered.

The Son of Hockey, McJesus (or Connor McDavid for those living under the meme rock) will be available to all who are willing to receive its breakfast blessings come Nov. 20 from Canadian Tire.

Canadian Tire has teamed up with McDavid, the ‘Great One’ Wayne Gretzky and ‘Captain Serious’ Jonathan Toews to #GiveAToast, and to help advertise the new face-on-toast engravers, three satirical (and quite frankly hilarious) commercials have been released on YouTube.

All proceeds from the sale of McDavid’s divine toaster, along with Gretzky’s ‘The Great Toaster,’ winner of four “Stanley Crusts” and Toews’ ‘The Toewster’ will go to help support Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program, which “gives kids from families in financial need the same chance to participate in sport as their neighbours, their classmates and their friends.”

All three commercials are really well done, but Toews’ shines above the other two.

The three-time Stanley Cup champion claims his toaster studies the opponent in his commercial. He professes that he doesn’t even eat toast but that he uses it to toast the chia seeds he throws into his smoothies (it won’t actually toast chia seeds, or at least that’s what on-screen pop-up warns.)

It remains to be seen if these bread crispers turn into the next Furby or Tickle Me Elmo and cause mass hysteria.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck