The NHL’s all-time leading scorer has agreed to a deal to become an analyst with American-based Turner Sports.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

The NHL’s all-time leading scorer has agreed to a deal to become an analyst with American-based Turner Sports.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Wayne Gretzky going into hockey broadcasting with Turner Sports

The NHL’s all-time leading scorer signed a multi-year deal to become a studio analyst with American-based Turner Sports on Wednesday

Wayne Gretzky is entering the hockey broadcasting world.

The NHL’s all-time leading scorer signed a multi-year deal to become a studio analyst with American-based Turner Sports on Wednesday. He will appear during key moments in the regular season — including opening week and the Winter Classic — and then throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The NHL reached multi-year deals with Turner Sports and ESPN for their American television coverage earlier this year, which will end the league’s association with NBC starting next season.

Gretzky resigned as vice-chairman of the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, saying he could not devote the time needed to the franchise given the pandemic and life changes.

Gretzky said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press that the opportunity to join Atlanta-based Turner, as well as some other changes, led to this being the perfect time to move into an analyst role. Gretzky and his wife, Janet, moved to Missouri earlier this year to be closer to his mother-in-law, who turns 100 in August.

The move from California also allows them to be closer to their two grandchildren, who are in South Florida.

“We just felt like, after the passing of my dad and my youngest going to college this year, maybe this is a good time to move. We’ve kind of become empty nesters,” he said. “Atlanta is an hour from Florida and an hour from St. Louis. So I guess the stars were aligned. We get to spend a lot of time with our family, and I get to do what I love to do, which is talk about hockey.”

Turner Sports has earned critical acclaim for its use of former basketball players Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal on its NBA coverage.

Gretzky said Turner reached out to him a couple months ago about a potential role. He also received a recruiting pitch from Barkley.

Even though they are good friends, Gretzky said no one should expect him to have the same style or delivery as Barkley, who is a big hockey fan.

“I’ll be honest and forthright, but I’m not, by any means, controversial,” Gretzky said. “And just so we’re very clear, I’m going to be way more positive than I am negative. That’s just my nature. You can still be critical without going over the edge.”

John Shannon, a longtime sports broadcaster and the former executive producer of “Hockey Night in Canada”, said Gretzky is an ideal fit for the position.

“I truly believe Wayne Gretzky could have as big an impact in this part of his life that he did in his playing career,” Shannon said. “When you look at Charles Barkley and what he did to basketball and to TNT, to create a following, I believe it’s within Wayne’s grasp to do the same thing.”

Shannon added he believes Gretzky will not just be there for the hardcore hockey fan, but to grow the game as well.

“He’s there to lure in the person who may know his name, but is not quite sure about hockey,” he said. “If he’s able to distil a story, they may want to watch. And if they watch and enjoy themselves, they may want to watch again tomorrow.

“That’s the magic that Wayne Gretzky has, the opportunity to use to help the game in 2021.”

Much like he did in bringing the game to new fans when he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988, Gretzky is hoping to continue to expand the game’s reach.

“I think the game is in a better position than it’s ever been before. The young players who are in the game today are outstanding athletes and they represent the game the way it should be,” he said. “And I’m 60 years old. I don’t need the stress of running a hockey team day to day. But this gives me an opportunity to talk about the game and try to take it to another level.

“I think everyone has a responsibility who was a player in the National Hockey League to try to grow the game, and if I can be part of making Turner a positive venue for people to watch, I’m all for it. In all seriousness, I wish I could still play but unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.”

The 60-year-old Gretzky, a native of Brantford, Ont., has worked throughout the hockey industry since retiring as a player in 1999.

Gretzky was coach of the Phoenix Coyotes for four seasons and also was executive director of Canada’s men’s Olympic hockey team in 2002 and 2006. The ‘02 team won gold in Salt Lake City.

A four-time Stanley Cup winner as a player with Edmonton, Gretzky returned to a front-office role with the Oilers in 2016.

In his bio on the Oilers’ website, the team says Gretzky’s duties included working with the Oilers Entertainment Group team on the commercial side of the business, as well as supporting development initiatives in the district where the Rogers Place arena is located.

The team said Gretzky worked closely with owner Daryl Katz and Oilers chairman Bob Nicholson in all aspects of the organization.

Gretzky was not involved in day-to-day dealings with the media during his time in the Oilers front office.

Gretzky returned to Brantford after his dad, Walter, died in March and delivered an emotional eulogy in a nationally-televised ceremony.

Turner Sports also announced veteran play-by-play commentator Kenny Albert and former NHL player Eddie Olczyk will call games on TNT and TBS.

Shannon said he’s hoping that Gretzky avoids an analysis-heavy approach and instead helps build the conversation about the game.

“Hockey is not a game of X’s and O’s. Hockey is a game of passion, a game of skill, a physical game,” he said. “I want him to tell stories of what he has seen. I don’t want (play description). I don’t want to see the Hockey Canada textbook on the air. I want to see him tell us stories about what makes the game so great.

“And quite frankly, if you look at what TNT has done with basketball, they don’t analyze the game very much. They just sit and tell stories. That’s remarkable. That’s fantastic. That’s what should happen.”

Turner’s seven-year agreement begins next season. Besides regular-season and playoff games, it also includes the 2023, ’25 and ’27 Stanley Cup finals on the TNT cable network.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Just Posted

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Holger Schwichtenberg and his son Philip talk in the barn of the 150-acre Schwichtenberg farm. This farm is one of many throughout B.C. that support more than 12,500 jobs across the province in the dairy industry. (Contributed Photo/B.C. Dairy Association)
Agassiz dairy farm a model of care for environment, animals, and family

Farm is part of a dairy sector centred in the Fraser Valley, supporting 12,500 jobs province-wide

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

The Great Gordini puts on a magic show for an avid audience during the first Storytime in the Park in this 2019 photo. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)
Storytime in the Park returns this summer

Day 1 registration is on June 30

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Surrey Fire Service battled a dock fire along the Fraser River late Friday night (June 18). It was on Musqueam Drive, near Industrial Road, around 10:45 p.m. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Fire engulfs pier on Surrey side of the Fraser River

Dock has reportedly been unused for a long time

Most Read