Wayne Gretzky Throws BTBs with Joe Tsai During NLL's Vegas Unveiling

PHOTO COURTESY OF LAS VEGAS LACROSSE

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, part owner of a new NLL franchise in Las Vegas, poses for a photo with a young fan Monday at an event introducing the ownership group at Michelob ULTRA Arena.


The Great One’s still got it.

Wayne Gretzky dusted off his stick skills Monday in a catch with billionaire sports investor Joe Tsai — rediscovering his lefty cradle and behind-the-back passing as they tossed a ball backstage during an event introducing the ownership group of the NLL’s 15th franchise at Michelob ULTRA Arena.

Tsai, the co-founder of Alibaba Group and owner of the San Diego Seals as well as the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, courted the NHL’s all-time leading scorer to join him in launching a new NLL team in Las Vegas starting in 2022-23. Pro golfer Dustin Johnson (Gretzky’s son-in-law) and Nets coach Steve Nash (a former two-time NBA MVP) also will be part owners of the yet-to-be-named franchise.

“I’m very lucky and fortunate that I grew up playing box lacrosse,” said Gretzky, a native of Brantford, Ontario. “A lot of people down here don’t realize it, but the actual national sport of Canada is box lacrosse, not ice hockey. Although ice hockey is a religion there, box lacrosse is our national sport.”

“I was so excited and so thrilled and so honored to come on board and be part of this,” Gretzky added. “It is a wonderful thrill for me.”

Gretzky said he also was drawn to the “go-get-em passion” Tsai has for growing the sport domestically and internationally. That includes Vegas.

“We don’t want to make entertainment for tourists. We want to make sure that we’re deep-rooted, [that] we have a grassroots support,” Tsai said. “We want to be known as your home team.”







In a recorded statement, Nash echoed Gretzky’s sentiments about growing up as a box lacrosse player and fan.

“As a Canadian, lacrosse has always been a passion of mine ever since I started playing in grade school,” Nash said. “And I’ve had a special connection to the box game in particular. As a young kid, I was a big fan of the Victoria Shamrocks of the WLA and my favorite player growing up was Kevin Alexander. Now I look forward to sharing the love of the sport with you in Las Vegas.”

NLL commissioner Nick Sakiewicz emceed the event Monday, heralding the league’s expansion from nine to 15 teams in the last five years and a sharp rise in franchise values and revenues during the same period.

“A lot of people don’t know that 70 percent of our fan base is event goers — party goers, party seekers, concert goers,” Sakiewicz said. “What better place than Las Vegas to attract that kind of audience.”

Nelson Rice contributed to this article.

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