The next chapter of Wayne Gretzky’s life will see the hockey legend join the TNT broadcast team as an analyst for the 2021-22 NHL season – an opportunity that may not have come together without some encouragement from an NBA legend, popular TNT commentator and longtime friend of The Great One.
“Charles Barkley is a good friend and he called me every single day and said, ‘This will be fun for you,’ and ultimately I decided OK this this something I gotta try and I’m really looking forward to it,” Gretzky told Hockey Central during a Friday appearance on Sportsnet 590 The Fan.
The 60-year-old resigned from his role as vice-chairman of the Edmonton Oilers in May prior to officially joining TNT after Turner Sports became a partial rightsholder for U.S.-based NHL broadcasts.
Gretzky explained that shortly after his father, Walter Gretzky, died in March he and his wife, Janet, reassessed their living situation now that each of their five children are college aged or older.
They decided to move from California to Missouri to be closer to Janet’s soon-to-be 100-year-old mother and other members of their family.
“We’re sort of empty nesters and we’ve kind of always had a kinship with St. Louis (where Gretzky briefly played in 1996),” Gretzky said. “I’ve always loved the city and the people. We’ve had a house there that my mother-in-law lives in, so we decided to move further east. … and then when TNT came along, I just sort of thought, ‘People ask me about hockey all the time, I love hockey, I love the game, I love being part of the game, everything I have in my life is because of the game, the players of today are great athletes and they’re wonderful people,’ and I just thought this was a great opportunity where I can just enjoy the game itself.”
Barkley is known for not holding back with his hot takes and criticisms of star players in the NBA, but don’t expect Gretzky to follow in those size-16 footsteps.
“There’s only one Charles Barkley, right?” Gretzky said. “You have to be yourself and when I met with TNT and talked to them about being involved in hockey, it doesn’t matter where I go people ask me questions and ask me about my opinion about the game or about players. I’m the most positive person in the world. I love everything about our game and I told everyone at Turner and Charles, ‘Look, I’m not a controversial guy. I’m not going to be that guy that’s going to be so negative about players. I’m the exact opposite, so if you’re looking for that guy, I’m not the right guy.’ …
“I’m gonna be Wayne Gretzky. I’m going to be forthright. I feel like I know the game, I feel like I respect the game and I’m just really excited to be a part of it again.”