Earlier this week, the folks from the Gillette EA Champions of Gaming Tournament reached out with the chance to interview Brendan Shanahan(notes) to publicize the tourney, which featured over 350,000 gamers from around the world competing for the Champions of Gaming crown on EA SPORTS titles. So we started working on about two good NHL competition committee questions and three dozen questions about "Lost."
Alas, we received a call saying that Shanahan was out, and there was a replacement interview. Just as we were preparing questions for Doug Lidster or Brian Noonan, the EA folks said it would be some chap named Wayne Gretzky on the other line.
The event being what it was, we only had five minutes with The Great One. But the former Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers (OK, and St. Louis Blues) legend offered some thoughts on the Phoenix Coyotes' success in the wake of his departure as head coach; the Winter Olympic experience; the Hart Trophy and his video game history.
First, here's Gretzky on his hockey future:
GRETZKY: No, it's not right now. Right now, I'm just enjoying doing what I'm doing. It's the greatest game in the world, and everything I have in my life is because of hockey. We'll see what happens down the road, but at this point: No, not right now.
Are you actually playing someone in a video game during this event?
Yeah. The winner of the event gets a chance to play against me. Trust me, I'm not very good.
Do you think you'd have a better shot at him if you were playing Wayne Gretzky's 3-D Hockey instead of an EA game?
I think I'd have a better shot if I was playing real hockey. (laughs)
One more video game question: Have you ever had a discussion with anyone involved with the movie "Swingers" about the whole ‘making your head bleed' thing?
No, no. Everybody often talks about it but I never talked to anybody about it.
I hear that.
(Ed. Note: At this point, we must cast our own doubt on Gretzky's claim that he never discussed the infamous "I'm gonna make Gretzky's head bleed for super fan 99 over here" line from "Swingers." Because we refuse to believe these two gentlemen discussed the "Psycho" remake, Jason Bateman and Wayne's "SNL" appearance for three periods over plastic cups of suds.)
What was your favorite moment or most surreal moment of the Vancouver Olympic experience?
First of all, the entire experience was just overwhelming. I don't think that anybody realized how great an Olympic games that Canada and Vancouver were going to put on. I think the people who were putting it on knew it was going to be outstanding, but I think the people left there really believing that it was the greatest Winter Games they had been to and would ever get an opportunity to witness. From that point of view, we were really proud as Canadians.
Just being part of the Opening Ceremonies was something I'll never forget for the rest of my life. It was a great experience and something I was proud to be associated with.
Even being in the pickup truck?
Ah, the pickup truck got me a little nervous. It was raining a little bit, and there was a lot of people on the streets. But I was fortunate to have four RCMP officers that were lying down in the truck, so I felt pretty secure.
If you had a Hart Trophy vote, who would it go to?
First of all, I think whoever does win the award is going to be deserving.
Honestly, what Sedin did in Vancouver was a special year. I think Ovechkin -- although Washington was picked to be a team that was going to finish high -- for [his team] to finish first overall in the National League is a great accomplishment. And of course Crosby is always just an outstanding leader.
If any of those three guys does win the award, it's well-deserved.
But if I was voting, I would vote for Bryzgalov in Phoenix. I don't think anybody picked that team to be as high as it finished. From my point of view, that's what the MVP is all about. He had an outstanding season. He'd be well-deserving of the award also.
One question on Phoenix: Is there any part of you that sees what they did this year and just wonders where that effort, where that success was in the year that you were behind the bench?
Not at all.
First of all, it's a really good organization. And it's a different team than the team that I had there. Much more of an experienced hockey club.
They're in a great position now, with a lot of young kids that are playing in their farm system that are going to be part of the team down the road; and by going out and getting guys like Aucoin, of that stature. They really made the team more of an experienced team.
They always had the leadership from guys like Jovanovski and Doan, and the goaltending with Bryzgalov. They just added some experienced players and they became a better team. They deserve all the credit they're getting this year because they're having an outstanding year under trying circumstances.
(Ed. Note: Were you waiting for the words "Dave" and/or "Tippett" like we were?)
Finally, a question we're sure you get all the time:
Do you have a favorite episode of "ProStars"?
Do I? (Laughs. Loudly.)
I can't even remember it. That's how old I am.
The Gillette - EA SPORTS Champions of Gaming Global Finals is being filmed and will air on Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 11:30 p.m. ET on Spike TV.