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June 5, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We have here NHL Chief Content Officer and Executive Vice President, Steve Mayer, for opening comments.
STEVE MAYER: Welcome, everybody. Thanks for joining us.
Our centennial year started January 1st. We are six months in. Throughout the year many different events, initiatives. Many of you were with us in Los Angeles at the All-Star Game where we revealed the top 100 players of all time. Since the beginning of the playoffs, we have been asking our fans to choose the greatest NHL team of all time.
The numbers have been staggering. Over four million votes. There have been nine million page views. We started with 96 Stanley Cup winners. We narrowed it down to 50, then to 20. Now we are ready today to announce the greatest NHL team ever.
Fans have been spending an average of five minutes of time on our website, which is really high. We'd like to thank the fans for their participation.
Starting with Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, we've been revealing the top 10. I'd like to show you a recap of the top 10 through the top 2.
No. 10, the Detroit Red Wings.
No. 9, the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers.
No. 8, the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens.
No. 7, the 1982-83 New York Islanders.
No. 6, the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings.
No. 5, the 1986-87 Edmonton Oilers.
No. 4, the 1987-88 Edmonton Oilers.
No. 3, the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens.
No. 2, the 1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins.
STEVE MAYER: We'd also like to thank our sponsors, SAP in the United States, and Honda in Canada.
Now it's time to reveal what the fans feel is the greatest NHL team of all time.
Led by six feature Hall of Famers, including Wayne Gretzky, who topped the NHL in goals, assists and points to earn his sixth consecutive Hart Trophy; and Paul Coffey, who won the Norris Trophy for the first time; the 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers showed they were intent upon defending their title. The Oilers finished 49-20-11 in the regular season, scoring 103 more goals than they allowed.
The Oilers continued to thrill once the post-season began. They swept both the Los Angeles Kings and the Winnipeg Jets, and then scored 44 goals in six games to eliminate the Chicago Blackhawks. Facing the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final, Edmonton lost the series opener, but then won the next four games to hoist the Stanley Cup for a second consecutive year.
Gretzky set playoff records with 30 assists and 47 points to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.
STEVE MAYER: So there you have it. The '84-'85 Edmonton Oilers, the NHL's greatest team. I'm proud to bring up here the captain of that team, Hart Trophy winner from that year, and our Centennial Ambassador, please welcome Wayne Gretzky.
WAYNE GRETZKY: Thank you very much. I want to thank Steve for the invitation to be part of this history, be one of the 25 guys who was part of that Edmonton Oiler team.
I want to, first of all, congratulate all the prospects who were here and wish them good luck. As Gordie Howe told me when I was 17 years old, it's the greatest game in the world, the greatest life you can ever have. Work hard and have fun, the rewards are endless.
First and foremost, I want to congratulate the city of Nashville, Mr. Poile, their organization. This has been just, as a fan, outstanding for the game of hockey, that Nashville, the people here, drawn to our game and our sport, rallied around the Predators, made the game even bigger and better throughout North America. Congratulations to the fans and the organization of the Nashville Predators.
This is going to be the most controversial picks that we've ever seen in a sense that there's so many great teams. I would have voted for our '87 team. That was me personally. If I couldn't vote for our teams, I probably would have voted for the Montreal team that was led by a young Ken Dryden and Jean Beliveau and John Ferguson, and upset the Bruins in Game 7, went on to win a Stanley Cup.
So there's no perfect answer here to what is the best team. We feel proud and privileged as an organization that the fans stepped up and voted for this team of the Edmonton Oilers.
It's hard to win a Stanley Cup. It's hard to get your name on the Stanley Cup. But there's no better feeling and there's no greater reward than when the commissioner presents you the Stanley Cup as a captain and as a team. It's one of the greatest traditions in all of sport.
Again, I feel proud and privileged to represent the Edmonton Oilers. I want to thank all the fans again for voting for us.
If anybody has any questions, ask away.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Wayne, obviously when we think of the Oilers in the '80s, we think of offense. You had world-caliber goaltending and defensemen. Talk about how that team was just more than offense.
WAYNE GRETZKY: Well, listen, to be a Stanley Cup champion, you have to have a whole package. You got to be fast. You got to be strong. You got to be offensive. You got to have good goaltending. You got to have good coaching. You got to be good defensively. You got to be really disciplined. You got to have that will to want to win.
We had a will to want to win. I've told this story many times before. I had lunch with Brian one time, the first time he won the Stanley Cup. I was a young kid. I said to him, What does it feel like to lift the Stanley Cup?
He started going into this dialogue. He said, You know, I wish every player could get that chance to win it.
And then he stopped himself. He said, But not everybody does get that chance. That's what makes winning the Stanley Cup so special.
So from our point of view, our team, we were unselfish, we worked hard. Consequently, we were able to lift that Stanley Cup. That's what it's all about.
Q. Wayne, there were no 50-goal scorers in the NHL this year. There were three 40-goal-scorers. If you go back to the era of the Edmonton Oilers, I remember four and five 40-plus scorers most years. With all the young talent in the NHL right now, how do you increase goal scoring?
WAYNE GRETZKY: Well, listen, I've said this before. These kids today are so good. They're so big, they're so fast. The equipment is better. The goaltending, they're bigger, better athletes. Grant Fuhr, Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur changed goaltenders in the '80s. Athletes became goaltenders. The best athletes on teams are the goaltenders. It start starts there. It makes it more difficult to score.
At a young age now, we're taught so much about defensive hockey. In the old days, with Beliveau and Bobby Orr and Guy Lafleur, myself, Messier, we used to throw a puck on the pond, you would skate, play three-on-three, four-on-four.
The game now is so structured. Two of the better defensive players in the game today are Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, 19 years old and 20 years old. They're taught so much about the game from the defensive side of the puck.
So the way the game is now, it's much more defensive. It's harder to score 40 goals today than it was when we played. I'm the first guy to acknowledge that. I came around in the right era. I played with the right organization, the right players, at the right time. It's a lot tougher now to be a 40-goal-scorer.
But that doesn't mean the game is different, it just means it's better today. These kids are really good.
Most importantly, you guys cover these kids, they're very respectful of the game. They're respectful of their families, their organization, the city. It's just a very good positive for the sport of hockey. We're in a really great place right now.
Q. Wayne, you were still playing the last time we had a repeat champion in the Stanley Cup Final. Why do you think it's been so hard? What does it take to get the job done?
WAYNE GRETZKY: Listen, once we developed the revenue sharing to strengthen the league, make teams from 1 through 30 competitive, it made it difficult. A guy like Stan Bowman I think has done a wonderful job. He's got such a great team, yet he has to be able to manage that, let guys go, still be competitive.
It's probably a little bit harder today with the salary cap to build a dynasty, build teams that can win two or three years in a row. The advantage Pittsburgh has, when you have a player like Crosby and Malkin, obviously that gives you a foot forward, obviously gives you a little bit of an advantage.
This is a tough situation for all these teams in the National Hockey League. Anybody can get to the Stanley Cup Final now. We have 1 through 16 that make the playoffs, the L.A. Kings proved, finishing 8th, that you can win a Stanley Cup. Nashville finished 8th this year, and they're in the Stanley Cup Final. From that point of view, the business side of the game has changed.
Q. Wayne, which one of these other great teams do you think would present the toughest matchup for your '84-' 85 Oilers and why?
WAYNE GRETZKY: For me it's the '91 Penguin team. The athletes have a lot of pride. Mario and I would have battled against each other. We had so much respect for each other, said this a million times, that he was the best player I ever played against. That fires you up as athletes. You want to compete against the best.
Whether I was 18 years old playing against Guy Lafleur or 28 years old playing against Mario, that's what the game is about.
With Tommy Barrasso and Grant Fuhr, guys like that, the question would have been is Coffey on our team or their team? That could have been the difference (laughter). We would have taken them back.
Q. Wayne, you mentioned the salary cap and the parity. Knowing that, knowing that this is the fourth Final for Crosby and Malkin, where do you think they stand historically as a tandem? What should they be measured by going forward? What do they have to do to crack the upper echelon of all time?
WAYNE GRETZKY: I think they've cracked the upper echelon. I don't think there's an question those two guys deserve to be up there when you talk about Lemaire and Lafleur, Bossy, Trottier, Gretzky, Messier, they've done everything you can do as a professional athlete. What they're doing now is adding onto it. In this day and age, like I said, it's probably a lot tougher for them.
So good for them. They deserve all the accolades they're getting. They've been a positive for the National Hockey League. They've been great for the city of Pittsburgh. That's the good news. They're fun to watch.
I live in California. People who don't know a lot about hockey that I talk to, I'm always encouraging them to watch this guy, watch that guy. Obviously those two guys are always at the top of the list.
Q. Wayne, you were a part of a group of stars all over the league that really elevated the game in the '80s. How do you think that group compares to the stars that we see today? The league?
WAYNE GRETZKY: Well, it's tough to compare because the game is so different. In the '80s, it was tough to compare against the guys in the '60s. I always say to people, what we accomplished, what we did, I'm very proud of. No one can take that away from me or us.
The kids today are different. They're bigger, faster, the equipment is better. Coaching is different. It's tough to compare. All I can say is we did the best we could do in the '80s. How we could compare to today, I'm not sure.
I know one thing, we give it our best effort.
Q. Wayne, you talked a little bit about Crosby and Malkin. Have you ever seen two legendary players like Jagr and Lemieux pass the baton off to Crosby and Malkin?
WAYNE GRETZKY: I guess (indiscernible), McDavid are pretty good. Hopefully that will be the next sort of crossing.
You know, I'll let Paul say a few words.
THE MODERATOR: We have Paul Coffey here now.
WAYNE GRETZKY: I just got you traded again (laughter).
Yeah, you know, they've been special. They've been great for the game. It's tough to compare, like Jagr, Mario, to Sid and Malkin. They've all been positive for the game.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Paul Coffey, as well.
Q. Wayne, you mentioned Nashville when you first started talking. You played here Nashville's first year, had five assists, a 7-4 win. Talk about your impressions of the city today compared to back then in terms of hockey city.
WAYNE GRETZKY: That year, I decided at the All-Star Game, which was played at Tampa Bay -- Tampa Bay is now getting the All-Star back again this year, so good for Steve and Tampa Bay fans. That's exciting.
I knew it was going to be my last sort of three months. I came into Nashville, I knew it was going to be my only game ever in Nashville. I remember I was thinking, I hope I have a good game because this is going to be the only time I ever play in Nashville.
You always remember players by the one time you saw them. So I was fired up to play. I was ready to play. I was excited to play. Thankfully I had a really good night that night.
Q. You mentioned guys being bigger, faster, stronger. What can the league do to take away head shots and should there be a no-tolerance policy?
WAYNE GRETZKY: I'll let Paul answer that one (laughter).
PAUL COFFEY: Just listening to Wayne's last comment about being excited to play in Nashville because it was his only game here, must have played a lot of games like that because you had a lot of great games in a lot of rinks.
With the head shots, I don't know. The game is so great, the game is so big and strong, I don't think its purpose, what the players do, how they can sanction it. I don't know. I mean, it's a dangerous thing. We all know that.
I think the league is taking the right precautions for sure with the timeout and making the players go through the proper protocol.
It's fast out there. It's big. I think they're doing their best.
Q. There's been a lot of talk about Nashville being one of the loudest arenas in the league. Can you talk about how much that impacted you when you played. Did you have an impact from the fans out there?
PAUL COFFEY: Well, I think as an athlete, there's nothing better than playing on the road. There's nothing better than going into enemy territory and taking the crowd right out of it.
I know ourselves, our early days going go Calgary, Philadelphia for sure, Toronto and Montreal, you always wanted to get that early lead, get the crowd out of the game.
What they're doing here in Nashville is absolutely incredible. I think when they first came into the league, people were wondering if they would embrace hockey. I think that's certainly been answered over the last ten or so years, certainly this series.
WAYNE GRETZKY: I think, not to be negative about it, but every rink in the playoffs is really loud. It doesn't matter where you play. You can ask some of the Anaheim and San Jose players playing in Edmonton in the first two rounds. Our arena was pretty loud. I know as a player playing in Edmonton, it was pretty exciting and pretty vocal.
I used to love playing in Philadelphia because The Spectrum was so loud. Mr. Snider was the biggest Flyers fan that ever lived. You could see him up in his box cheering. When we did have the good fortune of quieting the crowd down, there was a guy with signs that would never go away. Still had his signs out.
That was the fun of the playoffs. Whether it was Boston Garden, Chicago Stadium, Winnipeg Arena, The Spectrum. That's what makes the playoffs so fun. A lot of people say to me, Is there anything better than Stanley Cup Playoffs? There really isn't.
CHARLES BARKLEY: Wayne, who is your favorite black athlete of all time (laughter)?
WAYNE GRETZKY: Grant Fuhr (laughter). He wasn't on that team.
CHARLES BARKLEY: That was quick.
WAYNE GRETZKY: Biggest hockey fan in North America, right here.
CHARLES BARKLEY: Literally. But I'm going on a diet.
WAYNE GRETZKY: He texted me the other night: Is there anything better than being in a locker room of a Stanley Cup Playoff game? I wish I was in there (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Back to questions.
Q. Paul, what do you think of these Nashville Predators defensemen, the big four they have here in Nashville?
PAUL COFFEY: Pretty impressive. I mean, they're mobile. They make great plays. They defend well. To me, all six of them play the game the way the game should be played. There's not a lot of plays that are safe. That's the reason why their forwards certainly last game got a goal. They make a great first pass, stick-to-stick. They can play in any single era. It's nice to watch.
Q. Wayne, when you and Paul won your first Stanley Cup, you did it against a New York Islanders team that the year before had kicked you pretty good. That team won 19 straight playoff series. Is there enough historical love for what the New York Islanders accomplished?
WAYNE GRETZKY: Well, I hope so, because if it wasn't for the New York Islanders, we never would have won a Stanley Cup. We had so much respect for them. We learned from them the unselfishness of guys like Bossy, Trottier, Billy Smith, that's how we became champions.
I hope they're getting their just due that they deserve. Guys like Tonelli, Nystrom, Bob Bourne. They were a good hockey club.
Again, I know I said it at the beginning, it's controversial, who was the greatest team ever. We're honored and thrilled to be part of it, but there's so many great teams, so many teams that could have been part of this. The New York Rangers team that won in '94. I mean, there's a lot of good, good hockey teams out there.
Hopefully everybody understands that there's no right or wrong who No. 1 or 2 is. This is just conversation that people can have and talk about and debate. It can go on for a long time.
Who would be the best basketball team ever?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Well, if you watched TV today, it would be the Warriors. I like Byrd Celtics, Magic Lakers are my two greatest ever. I think Michael Bulls are after those two groups. It's all your opinion, to be honest with you.
Q. What brought you here? What hooked you on hockey?
CHARLES BARKLEY: I started following hockey actually in Birmingham, Alabama. We had a team called the Bulls back in the day. That was my first recollection of hockey.
Then when I got to Philadelphia, my favorite hockey player of all time was Ron Hextall. I got to know him and Eric Lindros going to a bunch of Flyers games. Then Mike Wilbon, one of my mentors, takes me to the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Blackhawks the last few years. I was in Alabama. I'm talking to J.R., who I talk to quite a bit, he's my neighbor in Arizona. Man, you go the to come to Nashville for a game. The craziest thing I've ever seen.
Then I get a nice call from Commissioner Bettman, Hey, with all the nice things you've been saying about hockey, come to a game.
Hey, I got nothing to do, so...
So I'm really looking forward to tonight. They say it's crazy. The playoffs in hockey have been amazing. You know, obviously I'm not breaking earth-shattering news, the NBA Playoffs have not been very good.
The best thing about my job is when I'm in work for two straight months, like the NHL Playoffs, I'm in a room with 20 televisions. I watch pretty much every single hockey game.
I think we showed the stat, we've only had four basketball games in the Playoffs that were less than double-digits. It's not been a lot of fun broadcasting games this year.
Q. Wayne, in your opening statement, you made reference to the 1971 Canadiens. If I'm counting right, you were just 10 years old.
WAYNE GRETZKY: Yeah.
Q. What was so special about that team?
WAYNE GRETZKY: Honestly, my next-door neighbor was a Habs fan and I was cheering for the Bruins (laughter). No.
It was an amazing run because Boston at that time finished ahead of them in the standings. They had a young goaltender, I think only played six games that year. Nobody knew who Ken Dryden was. I watch a lot of old hockey tapes. I knew the importance of John Ferguson, but I didn't know how good he was as a player. Everybody knew his reputation of being tough and physical. He was so good in that series, such a factor.
Jean Beliveau was Jean Beliveau. I looked at that team, Okay, it wasn't the best team that won the Stanley Cup that year, but they were the best group of guys that won the Stanley Cup that year.
That was kind of the team, when I saw this thing coming together, what team would you vote for other the Oilers, that was the team I kind of reached out to.
Q. Charles, what do you think the greatest players have in common, hockey and basketball? Who is your favorite NHL player and who is the Barkley of the NHL?
CHARLES BARKLEY: Number one, I told my favorite hockey player of all time is Ron Hextall. I want to know if my guy really cares. If you watch Ron play, you know he really wanted to win. So he's my favorite hockey player.
You know, a lot of the brothers, we root for Seth Jones because his father played in the NBA.
We don't know a lot about hockey. We probably should pay more attention to the regular season because there's nothing more nerve-wracking than Stanley Cup overtime hockey. It's the craziest thing you ever gonna see. That's one reason I just love the sport.
The one thing that all great players have in common is teammates. What I mean by that is, you see what Kevin Durant is doing now? Man, when you play with great players, like this, the game is so easy for you. Kevin Durant has always been great.
I give an example. I'm not comparing myself, it's not about me. I won MVP when I went to Phoenix. I was a much better player in Philly. When they gave me Dan, Majerle, Kevin Johnson, Whoa, these are the easiest 25 points ever. When you get 30 points in a game, it's a lot of hard work. When you get 25, you're like, Man, I don't have to do everything.
I think you're seeing that with Kevin Durant. He's a great player. When you play with other great players, it is the easiest thing in the world. Like obviously they are better than people. When they get teammates who take some of the responsibility where they don't have to get every rebound, score every basket, get every stop, the game is just so easy.
That's what they have in common. They have some good teammates. Obviously Wayne, Michael, Larry, Magic, they're great. But the game is great for them when they're playing with other great players.
Q. Paul, Wayne said the 91-92 Penguins would be the toughest match for the 84-85 Oilers. Speaking of yourself, who is a better Paul Coffey, 84-85 or 91-92?
PAUL COFFEY: I don't know. I would like to think youth had a little something to do with it.
WAYNE GRETZKY: The '88 Coffey.
PAUL COFFEY: I don't know. It's tough to compare seasons. I think you think you know it all at 24 years old, but you don't. As you get older, you have a little more experience. You play the game a little smarter.
CHARLES BARKLEY: Let me say this one thing about great teams. The teams that win a lot, they're the greatest teams because I think the one thing that you guys don't understand, man, winning is hard. Winning is hard. Like, we all want to win. We all want to win. But when you talk about great teams, teams that win multiple championships, I always put them on a pedestal.
These teams that win one time and never win again, that's cool. But to win all the time is a big deal.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, guys.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports