Great One set to take NHL's Centennial spotlight

Wed Sep 28, 2016 3:17am EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - Wayne Gretzky emerged from the sidelines back into the hockey spotlight on Tuesday when he was introduced as the official ambassador to the NHL's Centennial Celebration.

Gretzky has largely remained in the hockey shadows in recent years and played no official role in the NHL since 2009, when he was a minority owner, coach and head of hockey operations with the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Great One's relationship with the NHL was left strained when the league purchased the team out of bankruptcy and squabbled with Gretzky over compensation.

The NHL’s all-time leading scorer, Gretzky will be front and center as the NHL celebrates its 100th anniversary with a number of events starting with the Centennial Classic, an outdoor game that will be staged in Toronto on Jan. 1 between the Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings.

"I’ve always said this thousands of times: it’s the greatest game in the world," said Gretzky, speaking to reporters ahead of Game One of the best-of-three World Cup final between Canada and Team Europe.

"Everything I have in my life is because of the National Hockey League and the game of hockey.

"So when the commissioner called me a couple months ago and asked me if I wanted to be involved I said, 'Absolutely.'"

The celebrations will bridge two seasons, 2016-2017 and 2017-18, culminating with special events around the anniversary of the league's founding on Nov. 26, 2017 and first games on Dec. 19.   Continued...

Retired National Hockey League (NHL) player and Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky talks with the media during the public visitation of the late former NHL player Gordie Howe at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. June 14, 2016. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook