INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The ECHL All-Star Classic marked the return of Wayne Gretzky to the city where his professional career began.
“It’s always great to come home,” Gretzky said ahead of Monday’s Classic. “I spent not a long time here but it was a lot of fun for me.”
It was at the coliseum that a then 17-year old Gretzky found out he’d been traded from the Indianapolis Racers to Edmonton.
“This was the arena I was in where I was skating when I was told after practice I was being traded, so it was kind of an interesting day to say the least,” Gretzky said with a laugh.
Although the Great One’s stint in Indy was brief, lasting just eight games, he fondly recalled his time in the area as a teenager, where he lived with a family in Carmel, took night classes at Broad Ripple High School and learned the meaning of Hoosier hospitality.
“They treated me like one of their own children and I think to me that was the most comfortable part of being here because when I was at home with them I felt like a 17-year-old and when I was at practice I was going up against 30, 35-year-old men.”
The NHL’s all-time leading scorer and four-time Stanley Cup champion sees this All-Star game as evidence of the growing popularity of the sport in central Indiana.
“It’s great to see that the youth hockey is growing in this area and I think that has to do a lot with the success that franchises can have in this part of the country.”