Sports | May 10, 2021 11:10 am

Report: TNT Using Charles Barkley to Recruit Wayne Gretzky as Hockey Analyst

The network wants The Great One to do what Barkley does on "Inside the NBA"

Wayne Gretzky addresses fans on the rink
Wayne Gretzky addresses fans prior to the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition.
Bruce Bennett/Getty

Though it appeared ESPN was going to score him as its newest hockey analyst, Wayne Gretzky may soon be joining TNT’s new NHL broadcasting team thanks to the efforts of a former NBA star.

According to The New York Post, Turner Sports is using Charles Barkley of Inside the NBA to recruit Gretzky to join TNT to bolster the network’s new NHL coverage, which is set to begin starting with the 2021-22 season.

One of the biggest names in basketball broadcasting, Barkley developed an interest in hockey while growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, which at the time was the home of the World Hockey Association’s Birmingham Bulls. He also happened to live next to Gretzky in Phoenix.

“Turner has put the full-court press on for Gretzky by using Barkley, the Great One’s former neighbor in Arizona, as its chief recruiter, according to sources,” per The Post.

If TNT can land Gretzky, the network envisions him filling the same sort of role that Barkley currently occupies on Inside the NBA and is closing in on paying the 60-year-old former hockey star in the range of $5 million per year to take the job. ESPN was interested in Gretzky as well, but did not want to commit that much cash and reportedly capped its offer at around $2 million.

But Endeavor president Mark Shapiro, whose company represents Gretzky, told The Post it is “absolutely not true” ESPN is completely out of the bidding for his company’s client’s services. “That’s cute, but nobody bows out on the Great One. If he goes to Turner, it’s because they gave him a much better offer than ESPN,” he said.

Earlier this month, the NHL and Turner announced a new seven-year agreement that will pay $225 million per year for the rights to three Stanley Cups, half the playoffs and some regular season games. ESPN secured the other half of that TV rights deal, leaving the NHL’s current TV home, NBC Sports, out in the cold.