CJ's note: This is the sixth in a series of eleven posts. Comments are disabled until the final post, as there will be numerous surprises on the list!
So, here we are, halfway through the list. Any surprises yet?
If not, this next entry will not surprise you, either. As an elementary school kid in the late 70s and early 80s, I loved hockey. We all did. Most of us played league hockey at the community clubs, we played hockey in the schoolyard at recess, and we collected hockey cards (some of the others still do). We idolized certain players, and one in particular was idolized the most.
No, not Mel Bridgman this time. I speak only of one man, one true great...
Ladies and Gentleman, The Great One, Number 99, Wayne Gretzky!
I used to idolize the man who wore Number 99. Most of us kids did. Most of us were heartbroken when he was traded to the LA Kings. I cringe whenever I think of what I did to his rookie cards... coloured on them with markers, cut out him out of the card along with the Oilers' logo to make a collage on my Official O-Pee-Chee hockey locker, played Ninja stars with it...
Hell, I could drink to forget about all the money thrown down the toilet by destroying several (!) Wayne Gretzky Roookie Cards... could have put a couple of generations of Wheelers through university! But I digress.
Some coworkers of mine had the pleasure of meeting the Great One in an Edmonton bar a number of years ago. One of the guys had gone AWOL from the group, and when he was spotted going into the lounge, he was asked where he'd been. "Having a beer with Gretzky," he said, nonchalantly. The others stated their disbelief, which soon faded when they followed him in. There, at the table, was Wayne Gretzky.
I've heard stories from others who have met him through similar circumstances, that he's been a consummate gentleman and very accomodating. Never having met him myself, I'll believe this to be true. Much like most of the kids on that schoolyard, I'd love to sit down with our former idol, reminiscing about the good times and our own personal Golden Age of hockey.