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October 22, 2016

Mark Messier

Paul Coffey

Wayne Gretzky

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


MODERATOR: We'll start with questions for Paul and Mark.

Q. Paul, back in 2006, if I'm not mistaken, you played in a similar game at the Red Square in Moscow. Compare the two experiences, between this one and that one. Obviously very different atmospheres.
PAUL COFFEY: The same kind of atmosphere. The Red Square is a special place to play, for sure. It was 60th anniversary of Russian hockey, 50th anniversary of their first gold medal, and, I believe, the 25th anniversary of the Krutov, Lirionov, Makarov line. So it was a total celebration. The Red Square was just open, and it was equally as great as the event here today.

Q. Wayne and Mark, both Edmonton and Winnipeg's current teams are loaded with young players, just kind of on the cusp of their careers. I'm wondering what's the value in experiencing some of this kind of franchise history for players of that stage of their career. Or is it all just for us old guys?
MARK MESSIER: I think if you just look at the great franchises in the National Hockey League, and if you just want to start with the Montreal Canadiens, one of the greatest things about the Montreal Canadiens is their tradition and their history. And everybody that comes into that organization is well aware of the responsibility you have every time you put that jersey on.

And I only think it's a positive to have that kind of knowledge of what's gone on in the past. And it's not going to change anything on the ice for these guys.

But I think it definitely serves as a reminder that there's a huge obligation and responsibility when you play for an organization, and starting with the guy sitting next to you in the dressing room all the way up through management, all the way up through ownership and extending all the way out into the community and the city you play in.

And so I think from that perspective, yeah, it's very important. But we can talk to the kids all day long, but until they experience it themselves and go through the hardships and the failures and successes themselves, that's how they really get the real tangible experience that they need to move through their careers.

WAYNE GRETZKY: I think it's up to the individuals, too. As kids in Edmonton -- 17, 18, 19 -- we idolized the great teams, the Montreal Canadiens and the great players. And we wanted to emulate them. We wanted to be them.

But we also want to make our own history. So it's up to you as an individual team, as an individual organization, individual player, to what role you see past players and past teams as part of your life.

And you can either take it in and grasp it or say, you know what, they can't win a game for us, we can't go out there.

We accept it as a group of young guys, we idolized everybody that played before us, and it helped make us a better franchise.

Q. Wayne, I'm wondering, what will your lasting memory be today? What stood out to you about the atmosphere and everything you experienced here?
WAYNE GRETZKY: Listen, there's nothing negative at all about the day. It's a tremendous crowd for an alumni game. You can tell how big hockey is here.

The hockey, obviously, wasn't great hockey, but it was competitive. And the game ended the way it should end -- with the best player on the ice, on the home team scoring a big goal. And good for him and good for the franchise and great for the city.

Tomorrow's the real game, though. Tomorrow is what matters. And this isn't going to change our livelihood. But what a great experience. We had a wonderful night on Friday, and we had a great day today, just enjoyed playing the game.

Probably was a bad trade when we traded Willy, and that probably cost us the game.


Q. Essentially the same question for Mark and Paul. What did you guys take away from not just the game but the entire experience?
MARK MESSIER: For me personally it's just the incredible passion across Canada. And it doesn't matter where you go, where you stop at, where you play. Winnipeg was just another reminder of the incredible passion and the respect and the relationship between the players, past and present.

Today was, are the days that kind of transcend the game into a bigger than just the game itself, what it means to be a player, what it means to be a fan, the relationship and the link between the two.

So for me, I just -- when you skate on the ice, it was long way from my first shift in the old Winnipeg arena here as a 17-year-old playing for the Indianapolis Racers, and coming here, I don't know how many years later and seeing where hockey has come, and be able to fill an arena like this with players long past their primes, it's just a testament to the people here in Canada in general.

PAUL COFFEY: I probably should have trained a little harder. My flipping legs wouldn't move out there. No, it was great. It was fun. Anytime you can come back to Western Canada, to the prairies, it's always special.

And the Jets have been so thankful to all of us guys for coming, which we kind of think is -- it was our obligation. Our leader, sitting to my left and to Mark's right, anytime Wayne asks us to do something, if he's going to be involved, it's a quick yes for us.

It's something that we enjoy. We know that time is getting on. So it's important for us to share good times together. And today was definitely it.

Q. Wayne, it's been a while since we've seen you play in one of these games. Was wondering of what you thought about how you played?
WAYNE GRETZKY: I stink. (Laughter) I'm really bad. At least I forewarned people. Mark went down and he snapped that first goal and went down and snapped the second one, and I was, like, oh, my God, he can still play. Nobody's thinking that about Wayne Gretzky.

But I didn't have any expectations and I didn't tell anybody that I was going to go out there and be the Wayne Gretzky of the '80s.

But when you play in the NHL you get to play with the greatest players and you meet the nicest people and the greatest memories.

There's only one National Hockey League. And when I retired from there, that was it. I don't have the same excitement to go play pick-up hockey with the buddies. I love the game. I love every aspect of the game.

But I have no interest to play with guys who were not at my level at one point in time. So I don't play hockey any more. I play it once a year. I love when I do go out there. But I'm 56 in two months, and that might have been -- I'm not doing a roadshow, but that might have been my last game. (Laughter) it's hard now. It's just tough to tie up your laces.

Q. You might have thought -- there's one pass you made in the first period. You went into the corner and you whipped the blind, backhand into the slot right on the tape. It bounced off your stick.
PAUL COFFEY: I grabbed it, it was a beautiful pass. It was a glimpse of 1982. Got it, I looked to my left to see if I could dish it off, then tried to shoot it so hard I beat it up and flipped it over. Did you see me there, or is that one of the eyes-in-the-back-of-your-head passes?

WAYNE GRETZKY: I saw you in the glass. (Laughter)

We all have the same thought process and the same hockey sense. That does never leave you. We just don't have the same hands and the same speed.

I mean, we can do it -- not the speed they play today, but back in the '80s, when it was the best speed in hockey, we could do it at a high level. We can still do it now, it's just not the same speed.

And you could see the difference of Selanne, who just retired, and the other guys who have been retired for a long time. It was a lot like when Mark played in '03, he was still playing, and he was so much better than everybody else, because the guys who play at that level, it's a different kind of speed.

Q. There was a lot of talk before the game about this being the last time you guys would skate together. If that's so, is that probably a good thing?
WAYNE GRETZKY: Oh, yeah. (Laughter) it's a great thing. But you know, when we do get together, the guys love it. And I think it's great for our organization as a whole.

We had a mixture of -- we had the first NHL -- we had our captain, Blair MacDonald, and he had a goal. We had younger guys, like Staios and Ryan Smyth. It was a good mix of older, younger guys.

The one thing we have in common as hockey players and as teams, is one day eventually everyone is going to be a retired NHL player. And that's the one thing we all have in common.

And you didn't think about that when you're playing, and you shouldn't think about it.

But one day this group of guys here, hopefully they make their path to history, both in Winnipeg and in Edmonton, and they'll enjoy the days and nights of doing some of these kind of events.

We do these because they're fun. We raise a lot of money for charities, and it's good publicity for the National Hockey League. It's great for the game.

Q. Mark, we were inside talking -- we were talking to Dave Lumley and he was saying that when you guys were down 4-1, you kind of stood up and had a few words for the guys. Sure, the speed is a little slower and the hands are gone, but I guess that drive is still there, right? You want to play -- you still have pride?
MARK MESSIER: Everybody's got a tremendous amount of pride. Hockey is just an incredibly hard game, and it is just a testament to the players and conditioning that they're in, the way that they can play. And when you don't play, it's a reminder of how hard a game it is.

But as Wayne says, nobody loses their competitiveness. Nobody loses their mind for the game and the thought process for the game and knowing where people are, it's just that the conditioning and the leg strength you need in order to execute things is just not there. The core strength, the leg conditioning.

So it's just really hard to play. But the competitiveness is still there. Nobody was happy when we were down 4-1, I can assure you of that.

Just trying to figure out a way to climb back and get back into the game and make a game of it. It was exciting for everyone. It was obviously the goal for everybody, and we were able to do that and make it competitive. And as Wayne said, the best player, fittingly, although I'll never admit it's good to lose, but he made a great play and scored on two great penalty shots.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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