"It's horrible," Gretzky said. "The players today are bigger, better and stronger than we were when we played. These guys are really incredible athletes and they play a high risk -- it's a physical game, it's a fast game. And they all carry themselves so well, from Crosby to Ovechkin, Stamkos, Perry, Getzlaf.
"Our game should be very proud of how they conduct themselves as individuals and as people, and don't want to see anybody get an injury like he sustained today. It's unfortunate, and that's the risk of being of being a National Hockey League player or a professional athlete. It really is difficult."
Gretzky set a pile of NHL records in 1,487 games, but he found it difficult to play against two individuals.
"There's only a couple players in my career that I played against that were tough and mean, that I was a little nervous about," he said. "And both of them -- Mark Messier and Chris Chelios -- every time they hit me, they would tell me, 'Gretz, I'm behind you.' They both had a lot of class."
Gretzky joked with Chelios that he'd be thinking about those hits during the defenseman's induction speech.
"I said: 'I'm coming there for all the times you hit me and whacked me and hacked me,' Gretzky recalled. "'I'm going to count them out on my hands when you're up on stage. I'm going to just keep counting how many times you whacked me.'"
Over Chelios' marathon career, that happened a lot. Naturally Gretzky was there to see his friend get inducted, along with Scott Niedermayer, Brendan Shanahan, Fred Shero and Geraldine Heaney.
"To make the Hockey Hall of Fame is really hard," Gretzky said. "You've got to be a real special person because that's what makes it a special place. Everybody who's coming in, good for them, it's well-deserved."