Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Weighin in on Wayne


Post Topic #20: Why I dislike Wayne Gretzky

In the summer of 1996 the Rangers announced that they had signed Wayne Gretzky. During the year prior, Wayne was moved to the St. Louis Blues prior to the deadline, where the Blues Brass had hoped that the Gretzky Hull combination would be nearly unstoppable. Nearly was inaccurate. In fact, the two scoring powers did not mesh as well has had been planned, and as a free agent that following summer, Wayne Gretzky signed with the Rangers.

Gretzky said that he was “looking forward to playing with Messier again”, as the two had combined for three Stanley cup victories in their previous tenure together, for Glen Sather’s Edmonton Oilers. That summer, two years removed from a Stanley cup victory, the rangers, ignorant of the fact at the time, had done nothing other than commence the nosedive that kept them out of the playoffs for the next 8 years. Over that course the Rangers brought in dozens of high priced veterans, many of whom in retrospect were clearly at the final portion of the decline of their careers. Included in that crew was Wayne’s former Edmonton supporting cast: Jari Kurri, Marty McSorley and Luc Robitaille (who strangely had one last resurgence when he returned to Los Angeles, until he was traded to Detroit where I believe but am not certain he picked up a cup, thanks to the dominant 1-2 center lineup of Yzerman and Federov).

Other aging vets signed by former Islanders GM Neil Smith during those dark years included Theo Fleury, Val Kamensky, Stephane Quintal, Brian Skrudland, and Mike Keane. Of note, the year the Rangers signed Mike Keane and Skrudland they also took a chance on an oft injured veteran by the name of Pat Lafontaine; who happens to be one of my (and many true hockey fans) favorite players. Strangely, that year things appeared to be peering upwards, out of the endless draught that had seemed to swarm the Garden like a fog in a bad Stephen King movie. The Rangers were winning (started out on top of their conference), and LaFontaine was averaging nearly 1.5 pts/nite. Then, like a swift kick in the junk, the Rangers chances of “reproducing” a Stanley Cup went down the drains when Mike Keane, skating backwards, smashed into Mr. Lafontaine abruptly ending his career. I digress.

That same year that the Rangers signed Gretzky, they brought in some reinforcement to play on his wing. Kevin Stevens was 4 years removed from scoring 50 goals (not deserving of too much credit as he played on a line with Mario and Jaromir Jagr, two of the top 10 players of all time), and had fallen into “where are they now” category. Upon joining the Rangers Stevens was a fat, lazy, dirty hockey player who brought nothing to the Rangers… at all.

And so my story begins. As a young fan, and an optimistic follower of the Blue-shirts, I was confident that all of the signings would amount to a championship. Afterall, how could a Gretzky/Messier combination not produce wonders? Each summer prior to the start of training camp, the Rangers conducted a “golf tournament” for charity at a country club hardly a mile from my house, and this year my Ranger buddies and I were determined to attend. So we put on our Sunday’s best (which is a strange notion for a bunch of jews), hopped on our Huffy’ 12 speeds and rode down to the local club. Thinking we were sneaky but more likely the result of a “who cares they’re stupid kids” attitude, we snuk into the clubhouse to meet the players.

First to walk by was Jeff Beukeboom, a garden favorite and member of the Stanley Cup winning team. Jeff willingly signed my Rangers Jersey and went along his way. Next to walk by was my favorite player at the time and the spark-plug rookie during the Rangers’ cup run, Alex Kovalev (R.I.P.I.M (rest in peace in Montreal)). He likewise was attentive (or maybe he just liked my tie, which was actually my dad’s and was therefore six sizes too large and incredibly ugly. I think it was also tattered (pre-vintage vintage shit)), and gladly signed my Jersey.

My friends and I waited another hour or so. Several more players came out, we talked with them, some of them gave us autographs, but for the most part they were all very cooperative with our youth-inspired excitement at seeing a professional athlete (seeing Carmelo Anthony sign an $80 million contract after his freshman year when I was a junior and still looking for a non-paid internship sucked this “ignorant bliss” right out of me). So we decided to leave. I was slightly disappointed as I had only recently purchased a limited edition Wayne Gretzky collectors card, from QVC the week prior, expecting to run into Wayne at this event. On our way out I noticed a clamor from the main entrance of the club… out walked Wayne. There standing in front of me was the best athlete of our generation, maybe ever (see yesterday’s post). He looked smaller than he did on the ice, but he moved with the same grace that enabled him to scorch goalies, defenseman and playboy models over the course of his career. We approached him and amazingly, Wayne acknowledged us. The conversation went something like this.

Me: wayne you’re my 3rd favorite player on the Rangers (that sounded like a sweet-nothing at the time).

Wayne: Well thanks kid, I appreciate it, happy to be a Ranger, happy to be here.

Me: Are you going to win the cup this year?

Wayne: I certainly hope so kid.

Me: Can you sign my Wayne Gretzky card (using someone’s name as an adjective is an extremely under-rated use of the English Language).

Wayne nodded his head and grinned a Sports Illustrated cover grin. “Sure I can kid”, he told me. “Just let me put my golf clubs in my car and I’ll be right back.

I broke out a contract, and had Wayne sign it. Well not really but I wish I did so my case for specific performance (seeing as there was no adequate substitute, given that he was the world’s most accomplished athlete). Following behind Wayne was another big fat waste of space that I at the time did not recognize to be Kevin Stevens. Mr. Stevens, if I ever see you again we will have words. And I will look for you. To improve my chances and minimize my time wasted I will not look for you at the Hockey Hall of Fame, in the rafters of the igloo (Penguins arena, now called Mellon Arena), or in the fond memories of any Ranger fans.

So Wayne walked to his car and I waited patiently, excited at the prospects that my piece of paper would have ink from a pen that was improvably held by Wayne Gretzky… really quite an amazing thought. We waited for several minutes. No Wayne. We waited several more. Still no Wayne! Finally, around the circular drive came a Red, rusted I-Roc Z (stevens you trashy bastard). It pulled up to me and my friends and stopped short, the tires smoking and the driver a complete and utter ass.

The passenger window rolled down. Not one of those automatic windows but the ones you had to crank (probably the only exercise Kevin Stevens got that off-season (thanks for your 8 goals and 200 PIMS dick)). Out popped Wayne’s head in the coolest sunglasses ever (as of that moment).

Wayne: Hey kid come here let me sign that!!!

And just as I approached the window the two schmucks started laughing and drove off. I was shocked. I didn’t know whether to laugh (although at that moment I was probably not mature enough to appreciate such awesome crumor (cruel humor). So with my head down, I walked my bike all the way back home, UP TWO HILLS, and threw my Wayne Gretzky card in the garbage. This was my first stand against the pompousness that can so permanently stain an otherwise beautiful sport, like a Bertuzzi punch to the back of the head.

So to this day, regardless of how amazing his accomplishments, I remain one of the few people, that aren’t racist against Canadiens, that actually has a decent reason to, and continues to dislike the one they call the Greyat one.

But Hark! What light through yonder window breaks. Tis the West, and Wayne is coaching the Pheonix Coyotes, the perennial worst team in the NHL. There he is behind the bench every night, betting on games, crafting crappy power play units, making stupid draft day choices (google Blake Wheeler if you’re still reading this article), and slowly tarnishing what up until this very post had been an almost immaculate appearance to the Hockey world. So continue wasting away Wayne. And when you get fired, don’t forget to check your mail, for in it will be an autographed picture of me, with a little note:

Wayne: Thanks for nothing. Hope you enjoy coaching your kid’s Pee-Wee team.

P.S., Janet’s pregnant and it’s a jew.

Other Notes

Girls with boyfriends. Enough said.

Is it just me or is it that the cheaper a hamburger is, the more delicious it is?

How many people really don’t like global warming? Here we are, its mid November and in the mid 50’s. Today I wore a wife beater and a powder blue sean john sweatshirt to school and bicycle shorts and an eye patch. I wore the eye patch because my fro makes me look not scary so I needed to compensate.

Books are such a waste of paper. If we didn’t need books we wouldn’t have to cut down trees. If we didn’t need to cut down trees then we could all live in the jungle, if we all lived in the jungle there would be no point in going to school, if there was no point in going to school we wouldn’t need books… Hop on this reasoning at any station you choose.

There's no place like dome.

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