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THE INSIDE TRACK | THE HOT CORNER

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

November 05, 1998|HELENE ELLIOTT

What: "Wayne Gretzky's All-Star Hockey Volume 2: Winning Techniques"

Price: Buena Vista Home Entertainment, suggested retail $12.99, 75 minutes.

Wayne Gretzky got together with a few of his friends--who happen to include some NHL all-stars--for this straightforward, easy-to-understand instructional video. While it's primarily aimed at kids, it would also be useful for adults who need prompting on how to get started and how best to sharpen skills that are rusty or nonexistent.

The tape, done two years ago but held for what a Buena Vista spokeswoman explained as market timing, is divided into brief segments in which players illustrate each drill or point. Against a background of childhood pictures, Gretzky begins by discussing his childhood and emphasizes an important notion: Coaching should make the game fun. Segments include demonstrations on the proper way to stretch--which could have focused more on form and technique and less on "glamour" shots of the players--and various drills. Many of the drills can be adapted to roller hockey, as Gretzky and his pals demonstrate, making the video doubly useful.

Each section is clearly explained. Other sections include strategic drills, passing, puck protection, breakouts, defensive zone coverage, and power play and penalty killing drills. Players demonstrate each point, which is reinforced by footage of that particular skill or situation occurring in an NHL game. Roger Neilson, coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, conducts many of the drills. Doug Wilson, a former NHL defenseman, conducts the others. You'll see a bit too much of the NHL Players Assn.'s logo, because the union backed this video and the insignia is on players' jerseys and the dasherboards, but that's a minor drawback.

Between each segment is a feature in which Gretzky discusses his top 10 hockey memories, which are well illustrated with old game footage. A clip of the awkward, young Gretzky at his first All-Star game provided a chuckle.

Except for players setting a bad example by not wearing helmets during their drills, this is a useful video for youngsters just starting to play or anyone who wants to be like Gretzky on the ice or on in-line skates. This tape, and a similar one that preceded it by about two years, should be available at video stores and retail outlets. It's also available through (800) 672-9339. Proceeds go to the Players Helping Players Fund, which is administered by the NHL Players Assn.'s alumni association and supports projects designed to assist retired players.

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