Wayne Gretzky said his decision to join Turner Sports as an NHL studio analyst beginning this season was due in large part to a primary assist from TNT basketball analyst Charles Barkley.
“Charles Barkley is a good friend, and he called me every single day and said, ‘This will be fun for you’,” Gretzky told Sportsnet 590 in Toronto on Friday, “and ultimately I decided, OK, this is something I’ve got to try and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be exciting.”
Barkley, a Basketball Hall of Famer and 11-time NBA All-Star, has a reputation for speaking his mind on NBA telecasts on TNT, but Gretzky said he has no intention of following suit.
“There’s only one Charles Barkley, right?” the leading scorer in NHL history said. “You have to be yourself, and when I met with TNT and talked to them about being involved in hockey … it doesn’t matter where I go, people ask me questions and ask me about my opinion about the game or about players and about the sport, and I’m the most positive person in the world.
“I love everything about our game, and I told everyone at Turner and Charles, ‘Look, I’m not a controversial guy. I’m not going to be that guy that’s going to be so negative on players. I’m the exact opposite, so if you’re looking for that guy, I’m not the right guy.’
“People have said to me … what are you going to do, what are you going to be like? I’m going to be Wayne Gretzky. I’m going to be forthright. I feel like I know the game, I feel like I respect the game and I’m just really excited about being part of it again.”
Gretzky reached a multiyear agreement with Turner Sports on May 26. He will provide analysis on TNT and TBS broadcasts during key moments in the regular season and throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
One day earlier, he resigned from his role as a partner and vice chairman with the Edmonton Oilers. He worked in the front office for five seasons after joining Oilers Entertainment Group on Oct. 12, 2016.
Gretzky played his first nine NHL seasons for the Oilers, helping them win the Stanley Cup four times, before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings on Aug. 9, 1988. He retired April 18, 1999, after 20 NHL seasons with the Oilers, Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers, as a 10-time Art Ross Trophy winner given to the leading scorer in the NHL, a nine-time recipient of the Hart Trophy voted as NHL most valuable player, and two-time winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy voted as MVP of the playoffs.
Gretzky’s No. 99 was retired throughout the NHL prior to the 2000 All-Star Game. He holds or shares 61 NHL records and scored 2,857 points (894 goals, 1,963 assists). He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 22, 1999.
The NHL and Turner Sports announced a seven-year media rights agreement April 27 that will have regular-season and postseason games televised on TNT and TBS starting next season and running through 2027-28. Turner Sports will televise all games in the Stanley Cup Final in 2023, 2025 and 2027, one conference final series each season, and half of the first two rounds of the playoffs, plus 72 regular-season games per season including the NHL Winter Classic, the annual New Year’s Day outdoor game, in each of the seven seasons of the deal.