NEW YORK (CBS SPORTS) – Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky is still more optimistic than everybody else when it comes to the NHL lockout ending at a somewhat reasonable time. He also seems to be giving commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA leader Donald Fehr a bit more credit than everybody else.

Appearing on ESPN radio in New York, Gretzky continued to display optimism that the NHL season will begin before the Jan. 1 Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich., and that eventually cooler heads will prevail. And he believes that in his heart.

“Yeah, in my heart, I do,” Gretzky told host Don Le Greca, via Sports Radio Interviews. “I think first of all you have two smart people in the commissioner and the commissioner’s office leading the ownership group and of course Donald Fehr leading the NHLPA. I really believe in my heart that in ’04, changing the landscape, going to a salary cap, was a real big issue and a real big fight.

“I think this one is more of a numbers issue. I see them getting something resolved here. I think both sides want to come to a resolution. I think right now both sides are doing the best negotiating they can do. So optimistically, I still believe that everyone will be back playing hockey and I sure hope so. It’s a great game. It gets better every year, and we have great players and great athletes and good people in our game. I know the great fans across North America right now are dearly missing the sport of hockey.”

His optimism is admirable (and it’s kind of sad that we’re looking at a season potentially starting as late as Jan. 1 as “optimistic”) but it doesn’t seem to be shared by many others around the league, especially given the current state of the talks and how little progress is seemingly made when the two sides do get together.

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