Wayne Gretzky: Robitaille "made himself a Hall of Famer"
Some high praise for Hall of Fame inductee Luc Robitaille came Monday from the highest of all sources: Wayne Gretzky.
"I've known Luc since he was 17, with the Hull Olympiques," Gretzky said. "I’ve said this before, with Rocket Richard, Mike Bossy, Guy Lafleur and Mario Lemieux, there’s nobody who wanted to score more desperately than Luc Roitaille. He made himself a hall of famer."
Gretzky downplayed rumors that he might avoid the ceremony out of protest of his treatment by the NHL in the resolution of the Phoenix Coyotes' bankruptcy. Gretzky stepped away from his coaching job in September but is still owed about $8 million.
"I’m here to enjoy this and enjoy the night. It’s my time to sit back and enjoy my kids," he said. "The game is bigger than any one individual or person. It’s not part of my life now and it’s as simple as that."
He said he doesn't feel bitter. "Why should I?" he said. "It’s the greatest game in the world. There’s nothing better than our sport. I’m very proud of it. Just life goes on."
He also confirmed that Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi had reached out to him earlier this year and invited him to become involved with the organization. However, he indicated that he's not ready to make any decisions.
"Dean and I have been friends for a lot of years and he was one of the first phone calls when I decided to step away from the NHL in Phoenix," Gretzky said.
"I told him we would get together down the road and have lunch and just sit down and talk. He’s a wonderful guy and I’ glad to see he’s doing a great job in L.A. He’s done a nice turnaround there with a lot of good, young talent. And he’s always been a good friend. Down the road we’ll sit down and chat."
He also joked about his knee. "I played 20 years of hockey, I never got hurt. I play tennis, when I retired and I got hurt," he said, smiling. "But tennis is a dangerous sport."
More later from Toronto at www.latimes.com/sports
-- Helene Elliott in Toronto