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Relationship between Gretzky and Robitaille?

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04-19-2013, 09:07 PM
  #1
mrhockey193195
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Relationship between Gretzky and Robitaille?

Gretzky and Robitaille were teammates and linemates on LA for a long time, and in NY for a season as well (can't remember how much they played on the same line that year). From all accounts, the guys seem to get along and say great things about each other - Robitaille says a lot in Gretzky's "Sports Century" biography on ESPN classic, for example.

But I remember that in the mid 90s, there were rumors that the two didn't get along all that well. If I'm not mistaken, Robitaille refused an offer to play on the "Ninety-Nine All-Stars", Gretzky's European-tour team during the 1994-95 lockout. In Jeff Klein's biography of Mark Messier, I remember he made a note of this incident...where Robitaille said something to the extent of "I would be insane to play on Gretzky's team".

Can someone shed some light on their (temporary) falling out? I found this old NY Times article when doing a search on it:

http://www.nytimes.com/1996/09/10/sp...tzky-feud.html

Did it really just boil down to the Robitaille trade to Pittsburgh? For some reason I thought the feud was there while Luc was still on the Kings.

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04-20-2013, 01:06 AM
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tazzy19
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Maybe I'm reading too much into things, but I have always thought they were not very close judging by their body language during celebrations. During their Kings and Rangers tenure, it seems that every time they scored a goal together, Gretzky would skate away from Robitaille and celebrate on his own. Sometimes it almost seemed like Robitaille wanted to celebrate with Wayne, but Wayne didn't give him the attention..... They didn't seem to have any comradery on the ice. I recall many instances, such as the OT goal Wayne scored against Toronto in game 6 of the 1993 Conference finals which Robitaille assisted on. Also the OT goal that Wayne set up for Robitaille against the Habs in Montreal when they were playing for the Rangers. Both times it seemed Luc wanted to celebrate with Wayne, only to have Wayne skate off and celebrate on his own. Am I just being paranoid, or am I onto something here?


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04-20-2013, 01:24 AM
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Originally Posted by tazzy19 View Post
Maybe I'm reading too much into things, but I have always thought they were not very close judging by their body language during celebrations. During their Kings and Rangers tenure, it seems that every time they scored a goal together, Gretzky would skate away from Robitaille and celebrate on his own. Sometimes it almost seemed like Robitaille wanted to celebrate with Wayne, but Wayne didn't give him the attention..... They didn't seem to have any comradery on the ice. I recall many instances, such as the OT goal Wayne scored against Toronto in game 6 of the 1993 Conference finals which Robitaille assisted on. Also the OT goal that Wayne set up for Robitaille against the Habs in Montreal when they were playing for the Rangers. Both times it seemed Luc wanted to celebrate with Wayne, only to have Wayne skate off and celebrate on his own. Am I just being paranoid, or am I onto something here?
Maybe, but Gretzky often did this anyway. I never noticed anything different with Robitaille, but I wasn't looking either. I've never heard Gretzky say anything about Robitaille except for his ability to find a way to put the puck in the net.

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04-20-2013, 06:23 AM
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One thing I did notice: how can one of the best goal scoring lw's of all time have such poor chemistry with the best playmaking center of all time? They should have been deadly together.

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04-20-2013, 07:52 AM
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vadim sharifijanov
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One thing I did notice: how can one of the best goal scoring lw's of all time have such poor chemistry with the best playmaking center of all time? They should have been deadly together.
i thought the complete lack of chemistry between gretzky and brett hull was more puzzling.

robitaille probably would have been great alongside the younger gretzky who would put up 350+ shots a year. that was luc's game, burying rebounds.

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04-20-2013, 11:54 AM
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i thought the complete lack of chemistry between gretzky and brett hull was more puzzling.

robitaille probably would have been great alongside the younger gretzky who would put up 350+ shots a year. that was luc's game, burying rebounds.
Exactly. The style that Gretzky played you would think would mesh well with anyone. But it makes sense. They didn't call him "Lucky Luc" for nothing. Robitaille was not the type of player to burst down the wing with speed and bury a goal. He scored on rebounds, he scored while lying on his stomach. I think personally they had a relationship where they were working buddies. Put it this way, we've all worked at a job with people and got along with them great and hung out with them but once they go to another job (ie NHL, traded) you lose touch with them. That's just the feeling I get. I could be wrong. But you look at guys like Messier, Coffey, Lowe, Anderson, Fuhr, etc. and Gretzky to this day still seems to be extremely close to them.

As for Hull I don't know why people think the Hull and Gretzky combo didn't have chemistry. They played 18 regular season games together and then two playoff rounds. Considering everything they did alright. This was an older Gretzky at the time and Hull was on a slow decline. But over a full season I think they would have been dominant. Hull had a style that fit Gretzky to a tee. He'd get into the open area and one-time a shot. Eventually they would connect.

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04-20-2013, 01:23 PM
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Exactly. The style that Gretzky played you would think would mesh well with anyone. But it makes sense. They didn't call him "Lucky Luc" for nothing. Robitaille was not the type of player to burst down the wing with speed and bury a goal. He scored on rebounds, he scored while lying on his stomach. I think personally they had a relationship where they were working buddies. Put it this way, we've all worked at a job with people and got along with them great and hung out with them but once they go to another job (ie NHL, traded) you lose touch with them. That's just the feeling I get. I could be wrong. But you look at guys like Messier, Coffey, Lowe, Anderson, Fuhr, etc. and Gretzky to this day still seems to be extremely close to them.

As for Hull I don't know why people think the Hull and Gretzky combo didn't have chemistry. They played 18 regular season games together and then two playoff rounds. Considering everything they did alright. This was an older Gretzky at the time and Hull was on a slow decline. But over a full season I think they would have been dominant. Hull had a style that fit Gretzky to a tee. He'd get into the open area and one-time a shot. Eventually they would connect.
Here are Hull and Gretzky's statlines together

Gretzky
18 GP 8 G 13 - 21 P a pace of
82 GP 36 G 59 A 95 P

Hull
17 GP 9 G 6 A 15 P a pace of
82 GP 43 G 29 A 72 P


This is noticeably below the 107 point pace Gretzky played at in LA that season and the Blues were certainly a better team. I have no idea why they never clicked. I find it bizarre that Gretzky upgraded in linemates, yet got worse. Oh well, that is the way of small sample sizes.

I still would have loved to see them together in 1991. A peak Hull with a pre-Sutter Gretzky. I think Hull could hit 100 goals.


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04-20-2013, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by jigglysquishy View Post
Here are Hull and Gretzky's statlines together

Gretzky
18 GP 8 G 13 - 21 P a pace of
82 GP 36 G 59 A 95 P

Hull
17 GP 9 G 6 A 15 P a pace of
82 GP 43 G 29 A 72 P


This is noticeably below the 107 point pace Gretzky played at in LA that season and the Blues were certainly a better team. I have no idea why they never clicked. I find it bizarre that Gretzky upgraded in linemates, yet got worse. Oh well, that is the way of small sample sizes.

I still would have loved to see them together in 1991. A peak Hull with a pre-Sutter Gretzky. I think Hull could hit 100 goals.
Well like I said, shouldn't a mere 18 game season be enough to convince people that it isn't enough? Gretzky had an entire new situation, a new team, new coach, etc. In the middle of the season you are set in your ways. Crosby and Hossa didn't do a whole lot together at the end of the season when he got traded there. Of course, Hossa and Crosby lit it up rather well in the postseason. But I honestly think over the full course of a season they would have been unstoppable. So in my opinion I just don't think Gretzky and Hull had the chance or enough time to gel together. Because if Oates and Hull were a dynamic combo you'd think Gretzky would have been with him.

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04-20-2013, 08:55 PM
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Didn't Robitaille say stuff about how Gretzky was the shadow GM with the Kings, Or was that another guy?

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04-20-2013, 09:16 PM
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Robitaille blamed Gretz for him getting traded to Pitt for Tocchet

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04-20-2013, 11:33 PM
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I seem to remember Robitaille appearing in Gretzky's mid-90s hockey tips video, which came out over a year after Luc was traded. So unless it was filmed much earlier, I don't think there was really all that much bad blood.

BTW, if you ever get a chance to see it ... it's absolutely hilarious. Particularly when Gretz is introducing each segment, like talking about the importance of faceoffs, he's so stiff/uncomfortable/awkward that you can't help but laugh. Me and my college roommate would constantly quote and imitate Gretz from the video when we were watching games, it was a riot. Almost as funny as his Waikiki hockey skit from SNL.

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04-21-2013, 10:07 AM
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Well like I said, shouldn't a mere 18 game season be enough to convince people that it isn't enough? Gretzky had an entire new situation, a new team, new coach, etc. In the middle of the season you are set in your ways. Crosby and Hossa didn't do a whole lot together at the end of the season when he got traded there. Of course, Hossa and Crosby lit it up rather well in the postseason. But I honestly think over the full course of a season they would have been unstoppable. So in my opinion I just don't think Gretzky and Hull had the chance or enough time to gel together. Because if Oates and Hull were a dynamic combo you'd think Gretzky would have been with him.
Also keep in mind that the chemistry between Hull and Oates wasn't immediate either, but people forget because they had more than 30 games to establish it.

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04-21-2013, 03:54 PM
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one thing i wonder is the quick and immediate culture change that accompanied gretzky's arrival in LA. before the gretzky trade, that team was only one year removed from dionne being the main guy there. dionne mentored robitaille, steve duchesne, and jimmy carson (all three lived in dionne's mansion as rookies), and probably bernie nicholls too.

when gretzky goes there, they clear out that group (perceived to be holdovers from the "loser" dionne culture) and bring in larry robinson, john tonelli, and steve kasper. a couple years later, duchesne gets flipped for the rights to kurri, they bring in charlie huddy, plus mcsorley came over with gretzky, and the only holdovers from the dionne era are robitaille and dave taylor.

you can imagine luc looking around and basically seeing his team turned into gretzky's boys. maybe that always kept them at arm's length from one another?

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04-22-2013, 05:13 PM
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I always thought Robitaille idolized Gretzky early on, Robitaille was upset about being traded to Pittsburgh because Gretzky may have had influence, and they were friends again by NYR

I thought the shadow GM thing was overplayed. Wayne Gretzky would never trade Paul Coffey for Jimmy Carson, and even though it wasn't a bad deal, he was pretty upset with Nicholls leaving too.

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04-22-2013, 10:12 PM
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Some very interesting commentary by Robitaille here on his relationship with Gretzky starting at 11:29. If you read between the lines, his words seem to be quite telling, and Luc seems to be talking a little bit out of both sides of his mouth here. He obviously idolized Gretzky at one point, yet judging by what he's NOT saying, you can almost tell he has some opinions he is sort of keeping for himself. At the 14:00 minute mark, the interviewer asks him to take us into the locker room and expand on how his relationship with Gretzky developed, but instead Luc starts talking about the hockey related things he learned from him. He also takes a subtle jab at Gretzky's on ice cussing right off the bat, and how he realized Gretz wasn't as perfect as he thought he was.... He also mentions (almost ironically) that he couldn't talk much at the dinner table in Gretzky's presence due to intimidation of his idol.... What I got from all of it is they never developed a true friendship like, for example, Gretzky's friendship with Bernie Nichols or Brett Hull....

A really cool interview. Luc seems to be a really cool guy actually...


At 11:29:



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04-24-2013, 04:56 AM
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Originally Posted by tazzy19 View Post
Some very interesting commentary by Robitaille here on his relationship with Gretzky starting at 11:29. If you read between the lines, his words seem to be quite telling, and Luc seems to be talking a little bit out of both sides of his mouth here. He obviously idolized Gretzky at one point, yet judging by what he's NOT saying, you can almost tell he has some opinions he is sort of keeping for himself. At the 14:00 minute mark, the interviewer asks him to take us into the locker room and expand on how his relationship with Gretzky developed, but instead Luc starts talking about the hockey related things he learned from him. He also takes a subtle jab at Gretzky's on ice cussing right off the bat, and how he realized Gretz wasn't as perfect as he thought he was.... He also mentions (almost ironically) that he couldn't talk much at the dinner table in Gretzky's presence due to intimidation of his idol.... What I got from all of it is they never developed a true friendship like, for example, Gretzky's friendship with Bernie Nichols or Brett Hull....

A really cool interview. Luc seems to be a really cool guy actually...
IDK. Think you are reading too much between the lines? He just seems like a starry eyed teenage girl when talking about 99. He keeps it to hockey and avoids the personal stuff, whatever that may be. We can speculate all we want, but I don't think there is much there. How do you develop a relationship with anyone you idolize? I don't think its possible until you drop the idolizing. If there is any rift between them, its half of Luc's responsibility too. He does refer to learning that Gretzky became just like another guy to him. Maybe Luc's miffed that his fantasy was shattered? Many of us never get to meet our idols and the fantasy stays alive well into adulthood/old age.

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04-24-2013, 02:40 PM
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IDK. Think you are reading too much between the lines? He just seems like a starry eyed teenage girl when talking about 99. He keeps it to hockey and avoids the personal stuff, whatever that may be. We can speculate all we want, but I don't think there is much there. How do you develop a relationship with anyone you idolize? I don't think its possible until you drop the idolizing. If there is any rift between them, its half of Luc's responsibility too. He does refer to learning that Gretzky became just like another guy to him. Maybe Luc's miffed that his fantasy was shattered? Many of us never get to meet our idols and the fantasy stays alive well into adulthood/old age.
Whoever wrote Searching for Bobby Orr also wrote a Gretzky book, and that's where I got Robitaille idolizing Gretzky to the point where he had difficulty practicing with him because he was trying too hard to be perfect.

That's probably why they didn't play together at ES very much until 1993 or so.

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04-24-2013, 02:57 PM
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I always thought Robitaille idolized Gretzky early on, Robitaille was upset about being traded to Pittsburgh because Gretzky may have had influence, and they were friends again by NYR

I thought the shadow GM thing was overplayed. Wayne Gretzky would never trade Paul Coffey for Jimmy Carson, and even though it wasn't a bad deal, he was pretty upset with Nicholls leaving too.
true, i don't think gretzky was ever like messier in that respect. but my point was, and this is completely speculative, you're luc robitaille and you watch all the guys you came into the league with, all the guys you were supposed to be growing into the new core of the team with, traded away for veteran playoff-tested guys. you're a young scoring star, nothing special defensively, not especially physical, with a very short playoff resume. plus you absolutely love living in LA and being a king, even though what it meant to be an LA king had completely changed in just a few short years. i might be paranoid that i was next to go.

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04-24-2013, 05:49 PM
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IDK. Think you are reading too much between the lines? He just seems like a starry eyed teenage girl when talking about 99. He keeps it to hockey and avoids the personal stuff, whatever that may be. We can speculate all we want, but I don't think there is much there. How do you develop a relationship with anyone you idolize? I don't think its possible until you drop the idolizing. If there is any rift between them, its half of Luc's responsibility too. He does refer to learning that Gretzky became just like another guy to him. Maybe Luc's miffed that his fantasy was shattered? Many of us never get to meet our idols and the fantasy stays alive well into adulthood/old age.
Yeah, you're probably right. It is difficult to become good friends with someone you idolize, because you're not yourself. It's the same if you're dating a really hot girl, and you are putting her up on a pedestal. She will never fall in love with you, because you never become relaxed enough to become your real self. All you can hope for is she falls in love with the guy you are portraying yourself to be, which of course never lasts more than a few dates....

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04-27-2013, 06:21 AM
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Yeah, you're probably right. It is difficult to become good friends with someone you idolize, because you're not yourself. It's the same if you're dating a really hot girl, and you are putting her up on a pedestal. She will never fall in love with you, because you never become relaxed enough to become your real self. All you can hope for is she falls in love with the guy you are portraying yourself to be, which of course never lasts more than a few dates....
ESPN Classic was showing the exhibition game from September 1991 between the Rangers and Kings in Las Vegas. First of all, the ice looked fantastic despite it being 88 F. The puck was gliding smoothly, better than during any outdoor game of recent memory. Secondly, I can't believe Gretzky was playing as this must have been only weeks after the Suter hit in the 91 CC. Thirdly, Jari Kurri had just joined the Kings and was playing on a line with 99 and Sandstrom. I can't recall how much Robitaille and Gretzky played together that year, but I was thinking that this had to be demoralizing to some extent for Robitaille as he was in some ways being replaced by 99's former right hand man. I don't know if this contributed to a rift between the two, or if there even is a rift. Maybe the good thing that came out of this for Robitaille was that Kurri had a very sub par year in 91-92 and the next year it looks like 99 and Luc played together because Luc set the record for goals by a left winger. And then he was traded after the 93-94 season. So I could see how Luc might think that Gretzky was the shadow GM if this is true.

As an aside, I didn't realize Kurri either sat out or was hurt for all of 90-91 after Edmonton traded him to Philly. He signed as a free agent with LA in 91. Can anyone recall what happened there?

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04-27-2013, 07:32 AM
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As an aside, I didn't realize Kurri either sat out or was hurt for all of 90-91 after Edmonton traded him to Philly. He signed as a free agent with LA in 91. Can anyone recall what happened there?
He played in Italy of all places.

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04-27-2013, 10:08 AM
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I remember the day LA signed Jari Kurri. Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) was saying that LA was going to win the Stanley Cup, and Gretz was going to hit 200 points again. But Kurri was not the same player anymore (after his stint in Europe), and neither was Gretz (after the Suter hit).

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04-27-2013, 10:15 AM
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I remember the day LA signed Jari Kurri. Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) was saying that LA was going to win the Stanley Cup, and Gretz was going to hit 200 points again. But Kurri was not the same player anymore (after his stint in Europe), and neither was Gretz (after the Suter hit).
Yeah i love how people has started bringing up the Suter hit in response to all the "what ifs" concerning Mario Lemieux. But okey, aside from that Gretzky did not miss any significant time due to this "chronic" injury: No-ones questioning Gretzkys peak performances, but some people IN FACT try to claim Lemieux AT HIS BEST, was NOT at Gretzkys level. Only "what ifs". If Lemieux had been somewhat healthy, perhaps then the Suter thing could be used in Gretzkys defense.

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04-27-2013, 10:16 AM
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ESPN Classic was showing the exhibition game from September 1991 between the Rangers and Kings in Las Vegas. First of all, the ice looked fantastic despite it being 88 F. The puck was gliding smoothly, better than during any outdoor game of recent memory. Secondly, I can't believe Gretzky was playing as this must have been only weeks after the Suter hit in the 91 CC. Thirdly, Jari Kurri had just joined the Kings and was playing on a line with 99 and Sandstrom. I can't recall how much Robitaille and Gretzky played together that year, but I was thinking that this had to be demoralizing to some extent for Robitaille as he was in some ways being replaced by 99's former right hand man. I don't know if this contributed to a rift between the two, or if there even is a rift. Maybe the good thing that came out of this for Robitaille was that Kurri had a very sub par year in 91-92 and the next year it looks like 99 and Luc played together because Luc set the record for goals by a left winger. And then he was traded after the 93-94 season. So I could see how Luc might think that Gretzky was the shadow GM if this is true.

As an aside, I didn't realize Kurri either sat out or was hurt for all of 90-91 after Edmonton traded him to Philly. He signed as a free agent with LA in 91. Can anyone recall what happened there?
ironically, with gretzky out for a good part of the year, robitaille's main center was jari kurri. as i recall, they got off to a crazy hot start and both guys were up there near mario in the scoring race early on.

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04-27-2013, 10:53 AM
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As an aside, I didn't realize Kurri either sat out or was hurt for all of 90-91 after Edmonton traded him to Philly. He signed as a free agent with LA in 91. Can anyone recall what happened there?
If I remember correct Kurri wanted a trade after 89-90 season, but Edmonton dindīt want sell him so he did "sit out" that season. Playing in Europe also did give him a chance to focus on our home WHC in 91. We were still hunting our first medal and it was slightly bigger thing back then. After that season Edmonton agreed to trade him. I donīt remember how that deal went, but I remember Kurri saying that he was Flyers man for 15 minutes so it was just a quick stop on the way to LA.

edit. Sorry sit out is wrong term. He didnīt have a contract but Oilers owned his rights


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