'It's like Larry Bird': How Wayne Gretzky influenced NHL offenses, drawing inspiration from Celtics legend

2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Four
How Wayne Gretzky influenced NHL offenses, drawing inspiration from Celtics legend

Wayne Gretzky is widely regarded as the greatest hockey player of all time. He revolutionized the way offenses are approached in the NHL. His approach to the game was centered around a simple yet profound philosophy.

This mindset, inspired by the legendary Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics, changed the way players approached the game and influenced NHL offenses for years to come.

Gretzky said in "Gretzky, an Autobiography" written by Rick Reilly and Wayne Gretzky:

"Let the puck do all the moving and you get yourself in the right place. I don't care if you're Carl Lewis, you can't outskate that little black thing."

Wayne Gretzky understood that being a successful player didn't always mean dazzling opponents with fancy stickhandling or unleashing powerful slap shots. Instead, he recognized the importance of positioning and letting the puck do the work.

He added:

"People think that to be a good player you have to pick the puck up, deke around ninety-three guys and take this ungodly slap shot."

Gretzky believed in the power of finding open ice and using it to create scoring opportunities, just like Larry Bird, who excelled at getting open on the basketball court.

The ability to read the game and anticipate plays became Gretzky's trademark. He possessed an unparalleled hockey sense that allowed him to understand where the puck would be and where his teammates would be positioned.

By making smart passes and getting the puck to his teammates, Gretzky effectively utilized open ice to create scoring chances

Gretzky said:

"Just move the puck: give it up, get it back, give it up. It's like Larry Bird. The hardest work he does is getting open. The jumpshot is cake. That's all hockey is: open ice. That's my whole strategy"

This approach to the game not only made Gretzky a prolific scorer but also transformed the way offenses were structured in the NHL.

Wayne Gretzky's mantra in ice hockey

Gretzky's impact on NHL offenses goes beyond his on-ice success. His mindset and playing style inspired a new generation of players to focus on the collective aspect of the game rather than individual feats.

Wayne Gretzky quoted Chicago coach Mike Keenan's words:

"There's a spot on the ice that's no-man's land, and all the good goal scorers find it."

Gretzky believes the 'frozen real estate' between the defense and the forward is where players can create scoring opportunities by utilizing open ice.

Drawing inspiration from Larry Bird's approach to basketball, Gretzky showcased the power of positioning, anticipation, and selfless play.

Today, Gretzky's legacy lives on as players and teams continue to adopt his principles.

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Edited by Rajdeep Barman