Wayne Gretzky was a great player. The best to ever do it. He was a great goalscorer, a great playmaker, and the most dominant player the NHL has ever seen. But he had one major weakness, according to former teammate Jari Kurri.
In the 80s, Jari Kurri was the most feared goalscorer in the NHL. Of course, Wayne Gretzky still scored more than anyone, but from 1980 to 1990, Jari Kurri scored 474 goals in 754 games. And it was Wayne Gretzky that set up most of them. Gretzky didn’t assist anyone more than he did Jari Kurri.
Kurri was known for his shots, and especially his amazing one-timer. Today, we have Alexander Ovechkin, who always scores lots of goals and many one-timers. And Jari Kurri was exactly the same.
Always at the top of the faceoff circle, ready for a one-timer. And Wayne Gretzky always delivered what he was asking for.
Well, that’s not completely true. Gretzky has revealed that Kurri was unhappy with Gretzky after most of his goals, all because of one reason.
“Jari and I had a great relationship,” said Gretzky. “The only time he’d ever give me hell — and sometimes this happened even after he’d score — he’d tell me, ‘Gretz, you gotta pass it harder.’ I’m like, ‘Jari, the puck’s in the net.’ But he was one of the first guys who came over and could one-time the puck from any position and any speed. And the harder the pass, the more accurate it was. I was known for making a softer pass. So even when he scored, he’d go, ‘Gretz, pass me the damn puck harder.’ And I would laugh and go back to the bench and say, ‘The puck was in and out before the goalie moved, what are you worried about?’ That was probably our biggest fight as teammates.”
Thanks to Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri scored many goals and points. But Kurri got 195 points in 154 games for Edmonton–after Gretzky was traded to the Kings.
“People don’t realize how hard it was for a kid to come over from Finland, from Russia, from Czechoslovakia, in those days,” said Gretzky. “Because the kids that grew up over there didn’t learn English as a second language. Nowadays, a lot of kids who come over are already speaking or reading English. Jari picked up his English watching television. He was really shy, but as he got more comfortable with the language, he became more comfortable as a player.”