Editor’s note: Now includes full story. Part of story published on Sunday.
A local hockey player had a chance to practice with hockey legend Wayne Gretzky at a recent camp at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Chase McKay was amongst a group of three local players (Bailey Shaw and Darren Petersen from Greenwood were also there) in Idaho and while he heard rumours that Gretzky would be at the power skating camp (through the Compete Hockey Academy), he was still surprised to see The Great One.
“One of my friends went to the camp the week before and he had told me that Gretzky went and was maybe coming back because his kid (Tristan) was there,” McKay told the Grand Forks Gazette. “I wasn’t 100 per cent sure but there was a good chance. I was really hoping he would be there, especially after finding out he was there the week before.”
McKay couldn’t believe it when he actually saw The Great One and was honoured to skate and scrimmage by the player many recognize as the greatest hockey player of all time – he said Gretzky wasn’t going all out but was going at a decent pace.
“It was pretty amazing, knowing that you skated with one of the best hockey players to ever play. I was against him and that was weird. Getting cleared out of the crease by Wayne Gretzky was pretty weird,” he explained.
While Chase did get a signed jersey from Gretzky, he didn’t really have a chance to chat with the hall-of-famer, although mother Colleen did.
“I was standing there, waiting for the kids to come out onto the ice and here’s this guy behind me that says, ‘Gee, these arenas never get warmer do they.’ I said, ‘No, no, they really don’t,” and I looked beside me and it was him,” reminisced Colleen. “He sat there and talked to me probably for about 10 minutes.”
Colleen said topics ranged from how Tristan really didn’t play hockey to the Gretzky family recently travelling to Vancouver to see son Trevor and the Boise Hawks playing the Vancouver Canadians in Class-A baseball.
“I thought to myself, ‘I am standing here talking to Wayne Gretzky.’ But he was so nice … that was my first encounter with him and it was awesome,” Colleen said, adding that the following Friday was when he scrimmaged with Chase and the other players at the camp.
She said Gretzky made sure to play with every kid on the ice.
“It was really neat for all the kids to experience playing with Gretzky and it was fun for Colleen and I because we’d grown up watching him play,” said Colleen’s husband Warren. “I’m not a hockey player but even being on the ice and watching him skate and some of the passes he was making, he’s still got the touch after all these years. He seemed to really enjoy himself with a big smile on his face, playing with the kids; it was neat to see.”
For Chase, attending the camp and scrimmaging with Gretzky is something he’ll never forget.
“You just see how much he enjoyed the game. I’m hoping I can do the same,” Chase said. “To skate with the best player of all time is good.”