Wayne Gretzky, Executive Director with Canada’s gold medal winning entries at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and at the 2002 Olympics. Prior to Canada taking the ice against the Czech Republic, Gretzky was featured in a very well-attended press conference at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Here are some of the comments that he made about Canada’s National Junior Team.
“I’ve watched all the games. First of all, Canada has played a real solid tournament. I think up to this point in time, (Canada) has played as any Canadian team at any tournament has played. And they’ve handled themselves with a great deal of class and dignity, which is just as important, off the ice. These kids have played hard.”
“Sidney has been spectacular from the first game … a tremendous amount of pressure on a 17 year old. Sometimes you take if for granted with these kids, the expectations become so high with the pressure and the microscope that these kids are under. He’s handled himself tremendously. I think that the whole team has and I think as a group, they’ve played tremendously, as well as any Canadian team ever.”
“Really, the only reason that I made the (National Junior) team (in 1978) is a couple of the older guys got hurt just before the tournament so I got invite to play and made the team. I was only 16 years old and the two things that I remember the most are playing the Montreal Forum, meeting Guy Lafleur for the first time and getting to play for Canada for the first time. I was just a young kid enjoying it and in awe. I was playing with the some great players on that team, we were talking about it just last night. There were 13 or 14 of them that went on to be all-stars in the NHL and great players. There were nothing but fond memories for me.”