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December 31, 2016

Wayne Gretzky

Brett Hull

St. Louis, Missouri

Q. Mr. Gretzky, you haven't played for the Blues for quite a while. It had been only a short time you had played for them. Did you have a chance to reconnect with some of those guys over the past couple of days? What was that whole experience like for you?
WAYNE GRETZKY: Well, listen, over the years you develop a lot of relationships and friendships. And for me I'm kind of in a unique situation in that I come into town quite often. I spend a lot of time here. So when I'm here I see a lot of the guys. When I get a chance to be around the guys who live here full time and that I see quite a bit.

But for this event, players that came in from out of town that live in other cities, to be here and to be part of it and get a chance to spend time together and just talk about hockey and talk about families and kids and the game itself, you know, it's just fun.

And it was -- it's such a great rivalry between the Hawks and the Blues that it's only fitting that they square off in this game in St. Louis. And I don't think there's a better opponent for the Blues and for the fans than the Blackhawks. So I anticipate the game to be pretty spirited, pretty solid, good hockey game. And I think the fans will really enjoy it come the big game.

Q. When you talk about family, does this take -- how much does this take you back to Canada and your youth? We hear the legendary stories about how you got emotional. You didn't want to stop practicing, what's it like on an outdoor rink for you?
WAYNE GRETZKY: I would say most of the guys who played today kind of grew up in that era where we grew up in outdoor rinks and ponds and frozen lakes and backyards.

You know, guys like Adam Burish and Brett Hull and myself and Tkachuk. That's how we started playing the game of hockey. We weren't thrown into beautiful, warm, artificial-ice arenas when we were kids; we were thrown out to the 30-below-zero and wearing a toque and a scarf and freezing and our hands numb and our feet numb when we came in.

That's what's wonderful and what makes the game great. And each and every person to a tee was the exact way. We all love it.

It's changed in the sense that it's become not just a winter sport. One of the proudest days I had as a professional player was being part of the outdoor game in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium to see 60-degree weather and people there enjoying the game and 60,000 people at a game like that just shows you how far the game has come.

So we're an all-weather sport. We can play when it's warm. We can play when it's cold. But obviously we grew up playing on those outdoor rinks.

Q. Wayne, just overall, what do you think of all the outdoor games that the league has had and continues to...
WAYNE GRETZKY: I've said this before, I really like them. I think they're good for the game. I like the fact that we spread them out a little bit. St. Louis is getting a game. LA got a game in Dodger Stadium. San Jose got a game.

I think it's really positive for the game. It shows how big our sport is getting and it excites the people in those cities to have those games and host those games. They want to put on a show.

In some ways it's taken over sort of the, I guess, the character of the All-Star Game. Used to be the All-Star Game was one, two days of the year where everybody in that city and everybody rallied around. And it was a pretty good hockey game in those days.

Obviously the game's changed. And three-on-three game now. So in a lot of ways this outdoor game signifies a change in our game. And that's the way life is. There's changes that go with life and parenting is different today than it was 30 years ago.

Hockey is a little different than it was 30 years ago, simple as that.

Q. Can you describe St. Louis as a hockey town? You lived here, here sometimes, and the next generations too, put it into words.
WAYNE GRETZKY: Listen, as you know it's a great sport city. And I was fortunate enough as a kid, I got to see the Blues play in my hometown a little bit when they used to have training camp in southern Ontario. So I got that opportunity to see them play the Penguins. And over the years when Brett came into town and they moved out of that old arena into the new arena and the success they've had as an organization.

And the youth hockey getting bigger and more kids playing and way more support in the city and more support from the Blues as a team themselves.

So, from that point of view, it's just everything's a positive. And the team and the sport and the game itself in St. Louis is probably as strong now as it's ever been. And that's a real positive.

Q. I don't know how much you get a chance to watch the Blackhawks the last few years, but what have you seen in the evolution of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and how their games have grown over the years? And where do you think their careers can go from here?
WAYNE GRETZKY: Listen, I think that both of them are obviously superstars, both of them are Hall of Famers. I don't think there's any debate over that. More importantly, they're winners and they're very unselfish, and they've had a great deal of success. And they've been a real positive for Chicago, not only because of the way they play but because of the fact they've won championships.

And so you have to have good leadership and you have to have talent. And they bring both of those qualities to the organization, and consequently they've had a great deal of success, and they're fun to watch.

Q. Looking at an event like this, and I realize the Stanley Cup Finals you have heat -- it'll be hard to keep the ice surface, maybe technology helps down the road -- is it possible to see like a Game 7 outdoors if somehow we put 50,000 seats --
WAYNE GRETZKY: Never say never. I don't think anybody would ever have thought you would see a team like Anaheim and Tampa Bay lifting the Stanley Cup. If you said 30 years ago, in 19-whatever, Tampa Bay would be hosting the Stanley Cup, you'd say, no, that's not possible.

So anything's possible. Franchises are flourishing in the southwest in Dallas and Florida. So obviously anything's possible, and the league's always looking to try to make it bigger and better and stronger.

So that would be silly to say it's impossible.

Q. Brett, for you, just the turnout for today. A lot of times alumni games aren't fully packed, but this seemed like it was a complete sell-out. Just the fan reaction, the turnout tonight what did you think?
BRETT HULL: It was fantastic. I kind of went on the Ken Hitchcock plan and I didn't want to come in. I didn't want to know what it looked like. I didn't want to see it. I wanted to walk up the stairs and really get a surprise.

And it was bigger and better and more exciting than I ever could come close to imagining. It just shows you what great sports fans the St. Louis area has.

Q. Brett, what was it like to take one more run out there with Wayne and with Adam and the rest of the guys?
BRETT HULL: Well, I mean, it's fun and you think you're doing okay. You're out and you're skating with the guys and you feel good, and then you get out there and it was just -- every stride was agony.

But it was so fun to be with them and to be out there with the rest of the guys, not only from the era you played with, but the future eras when you were gone and the ones before you.

So just the fun part is being in the locker room and chit chatting and having fun. And we get older, the body's changed, but the tongue gets razor sharp. And you have even better lines now than when you played. So it's a lot of fun.

Q. Can you please describe the excitement of St. Louis as a city this weekend and what this means for St. Louis as a hockey town?
BRETT HULL: It hasn't just been this week. It's from the minute they announced it there was a buzz, there's a buzz in the arena during games.

You go out to eat and people would walk by your table and say, oh, we can't wait for the Winter Classic and to see you guys out there, the alumni. And, you know, first thing I did is I went and got my ticket. But I don't know how the rink's going to be configured so I didn't know where to buy them, but I bought them anyway.

It's been, since they announced it in the city and the Blues and the Cardinals, they did a wonderful job in promoting it. And now that it's here, I think having this game here, a couple days ahead of the real one, I think it's going to be even more exciting, because I think they saw even as slow and as old as we were, it was still exciting. And they can feel the Blackhawks/Blues game coming, and it's a real game.

And they just got our number a week or so ago at Scottrade. And then last night the Blues lost. So you know they're going to be eager for a win. So it's going to be an exciting game, and I think people are going to go bananas. It's going to be fantastic.

Q. Talk about the fact that it's versus Chicago, Brett. You've got in the baseball stadium with the great rivalry and then it translates to the ice as well historically?
BRETT HULL: That's the way you have to do it. No sense having Tampa against St. Louis. You've got to have -- that's why Toronto and Detroit are playing tomorrow. And you've got to have the rivalry and that close proximity between cities so their fans can come and watch as well.

So, the game against the Blackhawks and how both teams now are -- obviously Chicago has won the Cups and they have such a great corps of players. Well, the Blues the last five years have been as good as anybody, haven't quite gotten over the hump to win that Cup. But there's two really good teams in the NHL and they always have good battles.

So this one's going to be even more exciting with the outdoor, and hopefully the weather will cooperate. And I mean, could you ask for anything luckier than our day for us today? I mean, it was perfect.

Q. You talked about the Hitchcock approach. Not wanting to be surprised. Anybody out there -- I saw Turgeon flying around out there. Anybody really surprise you as far as what they had left in the tank?
BRETT HULL: Yeah, I thought I had a lot more left in the tank. (Laughter) I mean, I was good for about 10 steps and then it was just burning.

So, no, but you could see that -- Pierre, he lives in Colorado. And I looked at Gretzky on the bench and I said, well, he doesn't golf. And so I asked him. And he coaches and rides his mountain bike. So that's pretty good for conditioning up there.

But I thought a lot of the guys looked really good. Keith, Keith's a big man and he looked good out there. I thought he was great. And Larry Patey, he's got to be 60 years old and he pumped a goal in, and Bernie.

I thought everyone looked good. And to win was great because I thought they had a bunch of young guys that barely just retired. So it was great. And it was nice to have Marty Brodeur in the net for us as well.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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