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Transcripts From The Nhl All-Star Game Press Conference

Transcripts from the All-Star Game Press Conference.

THE MODERATOR:
Good evening. Thank you for waiting.
We will start right now with Wayne Gretzky, who would like to make a statement based on what we have been doing here today, then Jacques Martin will echo the sentiment in French

WAYNE GRETZKY:

Thank you for coming. We had a wonderful day today. As they say, you can never start preparing too early for a tournament such as this; and we felt that it was the right time for us as a group to meet and talk about some of our priorities and some of our goals and obviously players selections that, especially eight guys that need to be picked by mid-March. So that went really well for us today.

Obviously, as time goes on here, our objectives today were to talk about scouting procedures and the kind of team that we'd like to have together, and the great news today is although we had some good debating as a group, we were really on the same page. So we are all excited about the whole Olympics and the whole tournament, and we are looking very forward to the whole time.

Saying that, I will pass it over to Jacques in French.

(COMMENTS BY JACQUES MARTIN IN FRENCH).

THE MODERATOR:
We will open it immediately to questions now.

Q.
Any resolution at all to the problems with regard to the practice time?

WAYNE GRETZKY:
No, at this point in time we are in the position -- at this time, we seem to be - not seem to be, we are in the same position of all the other countries that are preparing for this tournament. Our wish is that the players would like to have some kind of get-together, a camp. In saying that, we understand that they have a big influence on this, the NHLPA; but also we stress the significance and the importance of this tournament. And as I have said from Day-1, we want to be on a level playing field in all countries that are in this tournament. And whether it is organized or unorganized, if some countries are having some sort of camp, we want to be on the same page. That is our concern, and we are going to talk with the NHLPA over the course of time here. And obviously we would love to have a summer camp of some sort, but we also understand the wishes of the players.

It is really in the hands of the players. And if they want to have a camp, it is their call.

Q.
Wayne, what kind of team did you as a group decide on today? What is the approach going to be as a club?

WAYNE GRETZKY:

Well, we are really excited about all the players that we talked about today. Going through the list of the Canadian players, we were very proud of the players that we have to choose from and select from. Obviously, our team that we want is going to be built on speed, and it is going to be built on grit and also going to have a great deal of character. That is what we want from this team. That is what we expect out of this team, and that is what we all kind of found out today in going over the players that we have to select from.

Q.
Can you talk about any decisions you have made in terms of picking a goaltender among the first eight.

Q. WAYNE GRETZKY:

That is pretty simple. We feel that at this time it didn't make a lot of sense to pick one guy. We feel that obviously that there is four or five guys out there that are very qualified to be among the goaltenders selected on this team. We felt as a group that to race on a decision on goaltender or two goaltenders at this time didn't make a lot of sense, that we would wait 'til the end to pick our goaltender.

Q.
Will you name just eight players or potentially more?

WAYNE GRETZKY:
Right now we have -- we started out today, to be quite honest, we put together a group of about 40 names. We went through each and every guy as individuals on what they could bring to this team and what they would bring to Team Canada.

At this point in time, we are not down to eight guys. At this point in time, we are still in 13, 14 range, and that is a great sign that we have great respect for the players that we are looking at.

As I said earlier in my talks, we had tremendous discussions and good debates and yet we are all on the same page for what we are looking for; and at this time we are not down to eight guys, no.

Q.
Is that all you are going to name though? Have you decided on that already?

WAYNE GRETZKY:
Pretty much at this point in time it would make sense for us to leave the door open to be able to add to that group of eight, and at this time, probably safe to say we would probably select eight.

Q.
Can you talk a little bit about scouting procedures? You mentioned that it was part of today's discussion.

WAYNE GRETZKY:
Absolutely. First of all, the coaching staff we have together, Pat and Ken and Jacques know and understand the talent in our League as good as anyone. So those three guys will obviously be a part of that.

Kevin and I will be also a huge part of everyday scouting. We really feel that the Playoffs, playing tough games on the road and those kind of situations are very important in picking the process of players that we really want. So our focus will be very strong in the Playoffs.
We also have Wayne Fleming, who is the world coach for the World Championships, who's been out talking and meeting and seeing different players play, and he is kind of a guy that is really going to be one of our main go-to guys.

So we felt as a group that we wanted to keep this together as much as possible, and to keep adding people to it makes life even a little bit more difficult at times. So we are really happy with the people we have in place that can prescout and go out and watch players and talk to other players and other coaches.

Q.
Pat Quinn, can you talk a little bit about your problems as a coach because of this timeframe here, and the style that you like to play as an offensive one that I think appears to be demanding because your Toronto players don't seem to grasp it some nights. How do you get this across to these guys in one night?

PAT QUINN:
I think that was a statement, not a question. (LAUGHTER.)

Obviously, we are going through a selection process. We are going to try to pick the best athletes here and ones that we will try to fit their style of play too. Selections, as Wayne said, are going to be around some speed; hopefully some good hockey sense, some real grit; and with those combinations, we should be able to come up with a style of play that is conducive to the skills that we think we are going to be picking here and feel very comfortable then.

What we will need is some time to work with these guys; and hopefully, we will have that time sometime in the summertime to be able to get our players on the same page.

Part of the selection, of course, will be that we feel that these guys can handle just about any style that we can throw them in a short-term.

Q.
With a lot of the great Canadian players getting older in their careers, even players that you played with, Wayne, you might be faced with some difficult decisions saying "no" to people that you have strong relationships with. Have you guys thought about how you are going to handle those decisions?

WAYNE GRETZKY:
Our discussions today, going over the list of players, there really wasn't any mention of that whatsoever. We are picking the best team possible, whether the player is 18 or 38. We just want people that can contribute to make this team hopefully a Gold Medalist team. In seven hours or six hours of discussions today, that never even came up.

Q.
Have you guys identified some specific things that you want to correct from four years ago in Nagano?

WAYNE GRETZKY:
I don't think it is a question of correcting, and I have been on the record saying this many times that the result wasn't fair to the preparation that Bobby Clarke and his staff put into that Team Canada.

Unfortunately for us, injuries are part of the game. And Sakic being injured and Kariya being injured obviously had an effect on us. But that is part of professional sports.

If I can take anything from that tournament to bring to this tournament as I have stressed to these guys here, in the past and today, is that we really believe that we are a disciplined strong defensive team and maybe we lacked goals in the last tournament and that is going to be something that we focus on.

Q.
Have you talked to Mario formerly about his potential involvement and has he given you an indication whether he would be open to being one of the eight?

WAYNE GRETZKY:
We haven't talked to any players about the Olympics yet at this point in time. We have kept our conversations in-house and between us as a group and that sort of thing. But I think it is pretty safe to say that he is on the list. (Laughter).

Q.
Wayne, March 25th is the deadline for naming the eight players. Will you name the players earlier than that and if so, when?

WAYNE GRETZKY:
Well, first of all, we would like to name them before March 25. We have to go through proper channels of permission from the NHL and the NHLPA. If that permission is granted we would like to name them a little bit earlier. Our reasons for that is that we would obviously -- there is going to be some players who are a little bit disappointed that they didn't make the team and that doesn't mean they are not going to be a part of the 23 but we don't want that to affect their play for their individual club and nor the National Hockey League. So that is something that Bob is going to have his hands on and quite honestly if we are allowed to, given permission, we will name them earlier than March 25.

Q.
I hate to get too specific, Wayne, but what did you see in Ken Hitchcock and what do you see him bringing to the coaching group?

WAYNE GRETZKY:

First of all, he is a winner. You love to have guys who win. That is an ingredient that you don't replace. He knows the game; understands the game. His team has played hard every game. I want this team to play hard. Obviously those are ingredients that jump out at you.

Q.
Wayne, give me a sense and us a sense of how much pressure your team is under in Canada because of the national sense of what this brings to the country?

WAYNE GRETZKY:
Well, that is the fact. Canada lives and dies the game of hockey. We, as Canadians, love our sport and something that we are very proud of. All of us up here have been through World Championships and Olympics and playing for your country and we understand the pressures that lie with it, that lies with that. But in saying that, it is also the greatest thing in the world to be under that pressure. It is a challenge for all of us and it is something that we thrive on. We don't understand any other way because that is the way we are brought up in Canada. So it is something all of our players have dealt with and they understand and they realize it. And it is not a reason or excuse not to win.

Q.
Wayne, maybe Pat, as well, your thoughts, if you in theory could get some kind of a camp in the summer, let us say it is August, but if you have only named eight players to your team, what would the catch be? Would you then invite 40 of them and have some sort of a tryout and would you invite up to the 23 that you -- how would it work?

WAYNE GRETZKY:
How would you want it?
(LAUGHTER) Well, again, we are going to work with the Players Association and the NHL on this, and we talked about it today at length. We would like to make everyone very comfortable with it. But it is a chance for the players to get together for camaraderie. It is a chance for the players to get to know the coaching staff and what they want. It is by no means a tryout or training camp of sort. It is more an opportunity for the players to get on the same page. How many players we would invite would be up to the coaches and what they would be comfortable with.

Q.
Herb Brooks was quoted today as saying that he'd like to see the All-Star Game not be played next year, have that time put to better use with the players either practicing together or, you know, as getting more practice time. Is that something you would agree with philosophically, would like to see done? Or would you see if there is even a way of changing it to get an extra day or two because there is such a short time between the end of the regular schedule and the time that everybody plays their first game in Salt Lake?

WAYNE GRETZKY:
Well, let me say this trying to be understanding of what the American Team wants and we all want an opportunity to get together. So I can understand where Herb is coming from. But the other side of it is the National Hockey League is something special, and the people in Miami and Florida are looking forward to the All-Star Game, and I don't think there is any way possible that that gets bumped for any kind of Olympics.

Although the Olympics are big, the NHL All-Star Game is something that we are all very proud of. So that is really something that is not going to happen, and I don't see that taking place.

I think we are all in agreement that we'd like to somehow get four or five days, six days together, and when that is going to be and where it is going to be, that seems to be what we are kind of at odds about.

Q.
Is the question of differing ice rink sizes one that gets overstated? In other words, do we put too much emphasis on playing on Olympic ice?

WAYNE GRETZKY:

No, completely different game. We talked about that today in going over the players that we talked about. It is a game that if you were going to play in Canada Cup or World Cup, you might be looking at different people and different personnel because you are playing on smaller ice rinks. The Olympic size ice rink is a different game, and we are understanding that as a team of coaches, and Kevin, myself, in putting this group together.

Q.
Wayne, will you be practicing a shoot-out everyday, or will you be picking the shoot-out players since you didn't get picked the last time?
(LAUGHTER.)

KEVIN LOWE:

Used to score more break-away goals than I did. That is a question you ask the coach. I am not going to be coaching. Practice a shoot-out, Pat?

PAT QUINN:
We don't plan to have to be in them. (Laughter.)
We want to win it outright, right off the 60 minutes.

Q.
In light of Wayne, in light of your answer about being a different game on bigger ice surface, does that mean more speed, less grind in selecting your team?

WAYNE GRETZKY:

My experience in playing against the teams that we are going to play against is that the one thing that the European players have, we know they have finesse, and we know they have talent; but they also have respect for the Canadian players and the American players. So there is not going to be a lot of dogfighting that goes along in the corners and the boards that is just a part of the game that we play in the NHL. It is much more visible and less visible in European size ice.

THE MODERATOR:
Thank you very much.


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