When New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal suffered an eye injury after being struck by a puck Tuesday night, you had to know that a popular NHL debate would come to the surface yet again. Should the league require that all of its players attach visors to their helmets? The game’s most legendary star doesn’t understand why they’re taking the visors off in the first place.
Wayne Gretzky joined Tony Bruno on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia to discuss the state of the struggling Flyers, Claude Giroux as captain, Ilya Bryzgalov’s psyche and the debate regarding whether NHL players should be forced to wear visors.
On the tough start to the Flyers’ season:
“They’ve had a really hard schedule in the first couple months here, and when you’re coming out of a lockout and guys haven’t skated, they get some injuries that are key injuries. And then they’ve got a real sort of hard-nosed schedule for the first six or seven weeks, and it’s difficult. So we’re in a condensed year and the good news is they still have a lot of time. I really like their team. Obviously there are some concerns, but I really like their whole entire group — their management team, their coaching staff. They gotta pull together now.”
On owner Ed Snider’s desire to help turn the team around this year, maybe with a move before the deadline:
“I know him pretty well because we sort of are neighbors out here in California and I get a chance to spend some time with him, and we both love to talk about hockey and the game itself. And you know what? The people in Philadelphia know this better than anybody, that this man loves the Flyers and he loves Philadelphia, and he wants to do anything and everything to win a Stanley Cup and be a champion again. … It’s so hard to make trades now because the salary cap and Mr. Snider’s the kind of guy that would spend any amount of money to bring his city a championship team. Unfortunately for him, the way the system works now, you just can’t do that. But listen, if it doesn’t work out I’m sure he’ll re-evaluate everything come June and do everything he can in his power to bring a championship club to that city.”
On the pressure on Claude Giroux as a new captain:
“They maybe had the greatest captain who ever played the game in Bobby Clarke. So to follow in his footsteps, first and foremost, as difficult as it seems, is very tough. I think he’s handled himself very well. It’s a city that cares about their team and wants nothing more than their team to become champions, and it’s hard. … At the end of the day all you have to do is go out and play the game and play it as hard as you can. As tough as the Philly fans are, if you work hard and you give your best effort they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. That’s the thing that Giroux does, he works hard every game, every shift, and ultimately I think he’s going to pull himself out of this and hopefully he can help turn this team around this season.”
On if the league should mandate that everyone wear visors:
“I don’t have an answer to that because I don’t play anymore and I always hated when guys would comment about the game when they were retired and weren’t playing. But let me say this: To me, it makes no common sense whatsoever that kids that grew up wearing full masks and then visors in junior hockey and college hockey, so why these kids would take their masks off … just for safety reasons, there is no reason to take it off. If I was a parent and a father of one of those kids, I would be telling them there’s no reason to take them off.”
On Ilya Bryzgalov:
“I don’t think his psyche is fragile. I think he’s like every other athlete. We all ride a wave. It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you are Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky, if things are going well then obviously you can ride that wave. Confidence is a big thing for professional athletes and I think he’s a talented goaltender.”