Gretzky and team owner Daryl Katz have apparently been talking about a return for a couple of years, as the NHL’s all-time leader in goals, assists and points says the timing is right to make an impact.
“It’s a good organization,” said Gretzky. “Part of what enticed me to come back was they have so many good things in place. I can enjoy it, just be part of the group.”
The Oilers will open the 2016-2017 NHL regular season at Rogers Place Wednesday night against the Calgary Flames and the new arena has symbolized a new beginning of sorts for the franchise. They’ll take to the ice with a new captain in Connor McDavid and seem ready to commit fully to the youth movement.
Gretzky’s part in the Oilers will be determined by Katz and Oilers Entertainment Group CEO Bob Nicholson.
“As I said, opportunities have come and gone over the last three or four years,” said Gretzky. “Timing has a lot to do with things and organizations have a lot to do with it. I just felt very comfortable with this organization, Bob, working together on the Olympics and (Oilers general manager) Pete Chiarelli is a wonderful man doing a tremendous job with a good coaching staff. I’m just going to be a small part of it and I’m really excited to represent the Oilers and the city in my travels now.”
Gretzky has committed to serve as a sounding board for Chiarelli, but he doesn’t want to interfere. The plan is to spend more time in Edmonton in the near future, but he insisted that he’s not involved with the day-to-day operations of the club.
The Oilers unveiled their Gretzky statue outside the new Rogers Place on Wednesday. The club has a new Hall of Fame room at the arena, which will serve as the media interview room and a place for press conferences. Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr, and Glenn Anderson were in attendance for the dedication of the Hall of Fame room on Wednesday.
“Our legacy is, yeah, a lot of Hall of Fame guys, but more of the sense of unselfishness, that we won,” Gretzky said. “And championships are most important. That’s something we can pass on to this young group of guys.”
Edmonton is hoping that the team’s shared history will have an impact on the future. The pieces are in place to turn things around and Gretzky’s presence should help in that regard, showcasing a tangible goal that can make a practice impact on the product on the ice at Rogers Place.