Wayne Gretzky: NHL Offenses Lost Their ‘Creativity and Imagination’

Patrick Kane
The Associated Press

Wayne Gretzky takes offense at the lack of NHL offense.

“When I was 10 years old, they’d throw a puck on the ice and say, ‘Go score,’ ” he told the New York Times. “Now, at 10 years old, the kids are taught to play in their lanes. Defensemen stay back. Everybody blocks shots. I mean, my goodness, I don’t think I ever blocked a shot, and I killed penalties every single game.”

The league-wide 2.51 goals-against average places as the lowest in 60 years. In 1983-84, when Gretzky won his first Stanley Cup and fifth Hart Trophy, the goals-against average stood at 3.83. Offense ain’t what it used to be.

“All in all, it’s sort of a grinding game now,” Gretzky tells the Times. “You’re taught from Day 1 that your role and responsibility is to keep the puck out of your net.”

The Times points out that Patrick Kane, the league’s leading scorer, boasts fewer than half (103) the points Gretzky did (215) during his record-setting 1985-86 season. With a game remaining, the Blackhawks forward needs 113 points to break Gretzky’s mark. His 103 points would rank 12th, just ahead of Bernie Federko and Glenn Anderson and just behind Michel Goulet, in the 1985-86 NHL. Three guys on the 1985-86 Oilers alone boasted more points. Yet Kane ranks as the runaway leader in points, 15 ahead of runner-up Jamie Benn.

“I thought goaltenders were paid to block shots, not forwards,” Gretzky explains. “It’s changed completely. I think the biggest thing we’ve lost is a little bit of our creativity and imagination in general.”

Old-time hockey isn’t what it used to be.