1. Wayne Gretzky Got Heads-Ups Before Getting Fouled

Wayne Gretzky Got Heads-Ups Before Getting Fouled

Even though hockey is a very physical sport, players would always try to be extra-careful around Wayne.


CONAN: When you were playing, there was an unwritten rule, it can be such a tough violent sport.
It was an unwritten rule you don't hit Wayne Gretzky.
You were so important to the sport that opposing teams -- do you think that's true?
WAYNE: It's not true in the sense that I would come home some games and I remember getting up the next day and Janet saying to me, wow, don't go to practice today.
No, we practice every day.
I got to go.
I got hit.
I didn't get hit as much as people probably wanted me to get hit, especially on the opposing teams.
Listen, I knew it was time to retire.
When I was playing my last year and people I was playing against, before they would hit me, they would scream my name and say, heads up, or Wayne, get out of the way or here we are.
OK, something is not right about this.
CONAN: I don't want to be the guy that kills Wayne Gretzky.
Look out, Wayne, here I come!
I'm going to hit you now!
WAYNE: You know what, and the hockey players have so much respect for each other and it's such a physical game, we went to a kings game about two years ago and I have two children after I retired and the kings are always kind enough they let me sit on the ice.
We're sitting there.
The players today are good, they're fast and strong.
After the first period, we got up and my wife and I and my two little kids and my 11-year-old son at the time turned to my wife and said, OK, be really honest.
Did dad really play in this league?
So the game has changed.
CONAN: The game has changed.
Let's talk about your style because it was so -- you were not the biggest player.
You were not the fastest player, but like some other remarkable athletes, you just seemed to have a sense of where to be.
Other players would say that Wayne Gretzky knows how the play is going to unfold, you could see it.
Do you feel that's safe to say?
WAYNE: Probably that was my forte, my hockey sense.
And it probably started because at the age of 5, I remember I said to my dad, I want to try out for a hockey team.
My dad said, OK, let's go.
We're going to try out for this team.
At that time you tried out for 10-year-olds, nobody played before that.
I made the team at 10 years old.
Throughout my whole career, I was always the smallest guy.
I was sort of not the fastest guy or the toughest guy, so my game never changed from the time I played, started competing at 5 to the time I turned pro.
When I turned pro at 17, I weighed 147 pounds.
CONAN: 147 pounds.
WAYNE: My own teammates were nervous I was going to get hurt.
CONAN: And your technique which was so fascinating, they would call it your office.
You had an area of sort of behind the net where you could hang out and that was where you liked to go and you could sort of control the whole flow of the game for your team from there.
WAYNE: Right.
Well, I was one of the first guys to strt -- it used to be that the centerman sort of stood in the slot, guys like Phil esposito, they were bigger and stronger guys, I couldn't stand there.
I would get the crap beaten out of me.
I had a coach at 14 years old, go watch this guy Bobby Clark play.
Watch how he plays.
He is not very big.
He is smart and passes the puck.
He plays from the corner and a little bit behind the next from the age of 14, I watched him day in and day out.
He probably had the most influence on my career as far as learning how to play the game and the style of game that I played.
And so I learned to play behind the net.
When I started doing that, it was so unique, nobody had ever tried to defend that.
So I was able to really master it and become really good at it and that was sort of my forte.
CONAN: And your record, 92 goals in one season.
WAYNE: Right.
CONAN: Many people think, many sportswriters think that's a goal that is never going to be touched.
It's like Dimaggio's hitting streak.
Do you have a theory on that?
Do you think in your lifetime there is some punk kid that is going to come along and get 93?
WAYNE: You know what, records are made to be broken.
When I grew up, my idol was Gordy Howe and he couldn't have been any nicer or better.
He is just a really good man.
So when I broke his records, he was always the first guy there.
If anybody ever breaks my records, I'll be the first guy to shake his hand.
The players are good today.
There is a lot of good players.
Never is a long time, but to me, when I got to 50 goals in 39 games, that's the record to me that I think will be the hardest one to break.
50 goals in 38 games is a lot of goals.
CONAN: Pretty good, we'll see, you know --