Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about hockey and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the hockey urban legends featured so far.
HOCKEY URBAN LEGEND: Did Wayne Gretzky Coin the Phrase “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is”?
The phrase “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is” has become one of the great business seminar phrases of all time, used by all sorts of self-help gurus and business advisors and appearing in any number of books about leadership and achieving business goals.
It is always attributed to Wayne Gretzky, the “Great One.”
Is that accurate?
Nope. it was originated by Gretzky’s FATHER, Walter Gretzky, who taught the phrase “Go to where the puck is going, not where it has been” when the Great One was just a kid.
However, Walter (and pretty much anyone associated with professional hockey) will tell you – this is not good advice for a professional hockey player, as no one needs to be told not to go where the puck no longer is!
And if everyone went to where the puck is going, you’d have a whole pile of people all around the puck, which is not good for a hockey team – spacing is usually a lot more valuable than having everyone go after the puck.
Still, in very basic terms, yes, it is fine advice – it’s just not something that the Great One came up, no matter how many more times he’ll be quoted as originating it over the years!!
The legend is…
Jill Rosenfield has a great examination about the legend of this phrase here. Well worth reading. She got the great quote from Walter Gretzky, as well as some other good quotes (including legendary Coach Herb Brooks mocking the phrase).
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org