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When is Wayne Gretzky returning to ‘NHL on TNT’?

“We actually have a fun segment between ourselves called ‘Where’s Wayno?’ because he hasn’t been on the show for about a month,” TNT colleague Rick Tocchet said of Gretzky.

NHL legend Wayne Gretzky signed on to be a studio analyst for TNT's inaugural season broadcasting the league.
NHL legend Wayne Gretzky signed on to be a studio analyst for TNT's inaugural season broadcasting the league.Read moreTNT

The Seattle Kraken will make their NHL on TNT debut Wednesday, taking on the Chicago Blackhawks at the Climate Pledge Arena. But one person you won’t see on set during the broadcast is Wayne Gretzky.

In May, TNT made headlines when it landed the hockey great and NHL Hall of Famer as a studio analyst for its inaugural season broadcasting the league.

Gretzky appeared on the network’s first two studio shows last month, on Oct. 13 for opening night and Oct. 20., which included a fun segment where “The Great One” squared off against Sixers legend Charles Barkley.

“It’s been more fun than I thought it was going to be,” Gretzky told Barkley and Ernie Johnson on The Steam Room podcast last month. “I’m loving it.”

But since then, Gretzky hasn’t appeared on set on the weekly show, which features host Liam McHugh and fellow analysts Anson Carter, Paul Bissonnette, and newly inducted Flyers Hall of Famer Rick Tocchet.

So when is Gretzky expected back? According to a TNT spokesperson, he’ll return for the Winter Classic in Minneapolis between the St. Louis Blues and the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 1 After that, he’ll make some intermittent appearances throughout the season and play a role in TNT’s NHL playoffs coverage.

Gretzky presence has still been felt during the show, often on the receiving end of lighthearted jabs from his colleagues.

“We actually have a fun segment between ourselves called ‘Where’s Wayno?’ because he hasn’t been on the show for about a month,” Tocchet told The Inquirer. “‘Oh, there’s Wayno now — he’s golfing. Or there’s Wayne, he’s on a boat or something in Idaho.’”

TNT’s NHL studio team celebrate the newest member of the Flyers Hall of Fame

Rick Tocchet on Tuesday became the 27th person inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame. He stayed true to his pledge of keeping his speech short, telling fans at the Wells Fargo Center that being drafted by the Flyers was the best thing that ever happened to him.

“I don’t think there’s a better fan base in the NHL. You guys support the team, you want to win as badly as anybody,” Tocchet said, pointing out that at an Eagles game last month fans chided him over his tenure as an assistant coach with the Penguins by yelling, “Penguins suck!”

After nearly four decades playing and coaching in the NHL, Tocchet is an analyst on TNT’s Wednesday night studio show. Here’s what some of his TNT colleagues had to say about his permanent enshrinement in Flyers history:

  1. Wayne Gretzky: “Tocc is a great player, coach, and friend, and I’m thrilled he’s being inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame. Not only is he a Flyers legend, but a hockey legend, and his commitment to the game makes him one of the greats.”

  2. Anson Carter: “As a player, Tocc could play up and down the lineup and any way you wanted. If you needed offense, he was smart enough to play on your top line, and if you needed physicality and intimidation he was tough enough to play on your fourth line. The best part about Tocc as a coach is he never forgot that he was once a player, which isn’t the case with a lot of former players that become coaches. That’s why current players enjoy playing for him.”

  3. Liam McHugh: “What I’ve learned is that the things that made Tocc a great player and coach are now helping him in the broadcasting world. He’s an excellent communicator, has a desire to learn, and most importantly he’s a fantastic teammate.”

» READ MORE: Two-of-a-kind players, Paul Holmgren, Rick Tocchet go into Flyers’ Hall of Fame

Quick hits

  1. Tuesday came and went without the NFL flexing out of Week 12′s Sunday Night Football matchup between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens. There’s still a decent chance the league flexes away from 49ers-Seahawks in Week 13, which they would have to announce no later than Tuesday.

  2. Amazon will air Thursday Night Football games exclusively next season, and it’s dream team broadcast booth would be NBC play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and longtime Fox analyst Troy Aikman, according to Front Office Sports’ Mike McCarthy. An Amazon spokesperson said the company would not “comment on rumors and speculation.”

  3. Fox Sports plans to relaunch the USFL in April, news first reported by Sports Business Daily’s Ben Fischer. The USFL will be “controlled” by Fox Sports, and CEO and executive president Eric Shanks will serve as the chair of the USFL’s board, according to a statement. The league will have eight teams, split evenly between North and South division. Each team will play 10 games, the league said. No word yet if the Philadelphia Stars will make their return.

  4. Credit to NFL Network host and Montco native Colleen Wolfe, who gave the proper answer when asked by Pat McAfee which spot offered a better cheesesteak — Pat’s or Geno’s (her answer: neither). If you’re hungry, here’s a list of the 12 best cheesesteak spots in and around Philadelphia, from The Inquirer’s food team.

  1. Inside the NBA rolled out a new segment Tuesday, where Barkley attempted to guess which of Shaq’s many sponsorships and endorsements are real. Yes, there really is a Shaq Egg Maker, but the big man didn’t really know how to use it. “I guess you put the eggs in the thing, hit the button,” Shaq said.

  1. Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski debuted a new podcast Tuesday called I Am Kobe, a 12-part series on the early years of the late NBA legend. The podcast features never-before-heard tapes of Kobe Bryant as a teenager and interviews with his high school coaches, friends, and family.

  2. When the Sixers take on LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 27, the game will take place in the newly renamed Arena, which is not awkward at all. The arena’s new logo will debut Dec. 25, and Staples Center signage will be replaced with the new name by June, according to the Los Angeles Times.