What is Gretzky's legacy if he retires after 1988?
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07-08-2013, 12:17 AM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Originally Posted by
From the time he was a pee wee player he had haters and jealous types chastising him. It was no different in the NHL. I mean this was a guy who broke into the NHL and didn't just dominate. He embarrassed the league and its records. Now not by his choice. This was not his goal. He was just that good. I believe a lot of the Canadian public at the time resented this kid having so much fun doing this while looking like he should be asking 'do you want fries with that' at some hamburger joint. (Can you imagine if Michael Jordan looked like a 6'6" Erkel?) It came so easy to him. As Killion stated, his on-ice moves were so subtle even at ice-level they were hard to pick up. I think it took a long time for hockey observers and players not on his team to really appreciate what he was doing. As I've said before, it wasn't until after the trade that the Canadian public as a whole really understood and appreciated what he did in hockey. Now he was across the border and we just lost are greatest Canadian asset since oil and water. Ok, misunderstood, perhaps in the sense of most geniuses, yeah. However, most geniuses are ignored or called crazy during their time rather than idolized, resented and called lucky. Most geniuses are shut-ins, doing their thing until they find a way to communicate their invention to the general public in an understandable way. Gretzky was a genius right in the mix challenging the egos of every Canadian who ever played or watched the game. Personally, I hated him. Being 12 at the time of his onslaught on the NHL; my younger brother idolizing him and the Oilers trouncing the Habs in 3 games. That Habs team was old but still a formidable force. Gretzky embarrassed the most revered franchise in the history of hockey. Huh? A lot of this just didn't compute for us. It took
to settle in,
to get past our denial and personal biases,
to finally say, "Wow! That's incredible!" Of course I am speaking more for myself than the Canadian public as a whole, but I think I probably speak for a lot of Canadians.
I remember being 8 years old and watching the Oilers play in their NHL debut season (not game) at my uncle's trailer. I was excited, because to my way of thinking, Edmonton finally had a real team. I hadn't even heard of the WHA until shortly before the merger, and hadn't known we even had a team. There was a lot of excitement around Gretzky, but already people were starting to doubt him. My uncle was one of them.
I remember my uncle was always a Bobby Hull fan. Gretzky was too small, weak, slow, skated weird, and didn't go to the net. Hull was a real hockey player. Everything Gretzky lacked, that's what Hull was. But I didn't care - I was watching the Oilers, and in that first year it really was the Wayne Gretzky show. The Oilers were not a good team. Messier was not the player people think of today. None of them were. Our defense wasn't great. Our goalie was mostly note-worthy because he was Ken Dryden's brother. But Gretzky was sensational even that first year. I was too young to understand why so many people didn't like him. I just wanted a team that won games, I didn't care about how he skated, or if he only weighed 170 lbs.
A few seasons later, I remember watching a game at my uncle's when everything changed. I'd love to say it was his 50 in 39 record setting game - usually when I tell the story it is - but TBH it was so long ago I don't remember. But it was against the Flyers, and Gretzky was on that night. I remember the game ended and I looked over at my uncle, and he had a tear running down one cheek. I asked him what was wrong, and he just said "I was wrong, Robby, I was wrong. He's the greatest player ever." After that, my uncle didn't complain about him skating strangely, or not fighting anymore. I don't even know if that game specifically did it, or if my uncle had been thinking it for a while and just trying to deny it because he was such a big Hull fan, but it really did take some people years before they started to see just what Gretzky was.
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