When Wayne Gretzky talks, we all listen. That's what happens when you're so great your nickname is simply the Great One.
Gretzky made a visit on the Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday, and amid telling classic stories about things such as trying to watch Larry Bird play basketball, he got a little serious about the NHL game today. All in all, Gretzky has been supportive of the growth and adaption of the game, not holding on too tightly to his era. But there's one thing he doesn't like in today's game: the sticks.
When Gretzky was tearing up the NHL, players were using old-fashioned shafts. You know, ones actually made of wood. But you don't see those in the NHL any more but for very rare occasions. It's all about composite shafts and what have you.
If Gretzky had his druthers, he'd like to see a return to the wood. Why? Players would have better feel and control, as Gretzky explained to Patrick.
"Obviously, we couldn't shoot the puck as hard as these guys with the shafts and sticks they use today," Gretzky said. "I just don't feel they have the same feel with the blade and the puck that we had back in the 70s ... I don't feel like it's the same sort of feel that our sticks had.
"I know it's not going to happen because of the wood scenario we have in life and around the world. I just think these guys would be better players, they maybe wouldn't shoot the puck as hard, but they'd be better play-makers with their wooden sticks.
"I'd hate to see [Sidney] Crosby with a wooden stick. I don't think anybody would get the puck from him."
I'm no expert on hockey sticks and what works best, so I think I'll defer to the Great One on this. Come to think of it, that's probably a good strategy for almost everything in life.
What I do know, however, is the sticks they use today tend to break a lot. Is there anything more frustrating than watching a player wind up for a slap shot only to be disappointed when the stick splits in two and the puck feebly moves forward? That's not to say sticks didn't break before, but it's a bigger issue now than it ever was.
It's kind of scary to think Gretzky believes Crosby could be even better if he changed sticks. The Kid is already as good as it gets in the game today -- just imagine him being as good as Gretzky says he could be.
Visors have also been a big topic in the NHL for a little more than a week now, and Gretzky talked about that too. He explained to Patrick that he won't let his son go without a visor for pick-up games, and he's in his 20s now.
While Gretzky doesn't support a total mandate on visors right now, he, like many, would like to see them grandfathered in the way helmets were. He just can't understand why guys who grew up playing with them in juniors or in the NCAA would make it to the NHL and remove the protection. I agree.