Wayne Gretzky is fully on board with the NHL's decision to increase women's involvement during All-Star Weekend in St. Louis, calling it a "big step forward," according to ESPN's Emily Kaplan.
"Exposure is everything," Gretzky said. "It's baby steps. You're not going to flood the market overnight. It takes time to get into the markets and get more youth girls to participate in hockey.
"It's very important that there's an understanding from the National Hockey League that we want to help grow women's hockey and make girls' hockey bigger and better than it's ever been. So I think the commissioner and the NHL have done a tremendous thing by bringing these women out."
The NHL has involved women in its All-Star festivities for the past three years, but the league will take it to new heights Friday with a brand-new event featuring the sport's best Canadian and American women in a three-on-three matchup.
Some of the Americans set to participate include Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker, Kendal Coyne Schofield, and Amanda Kessel. The Canadian team will feature Marie-Philip Poulin, Natalie Spooner, and Meghan Agosta, among others.
Coyne Schofield stole the show at the 2019 All-Star Weekend in San Jose with an impressive lap in the Fastest Skater event, while Decker posted the fastest time in Premier Passing during her demonstration of that event.
"Fans in St. Louis are great hockey fans; they are going to enjoy watching the girls as much as they enjoy watching the men," Gretzky said. "And I think they're going to be surprised that the girls play a very aggressive game of hockey. Their three-on-three game is going to be much more aggressive than the men's game tomorrow."
The women will face off following the Accuracy Shooting contest Friday night. The game will have two 10-minute periods with a running clock.