SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers kids to grill The Great One

Oilers forwards ordan Eberle, left, and Taylor Hall will have an opportunity to quiz Wayne Gretzky...

Oilers forwards ordan Eberle, left, and Taylor Hall will have an opportunity to quiz Wayne Gretzky Friday at The Legends Experience. (DAVID BLOOM/QMI Agency)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:23 AM ET

EDMONTON - To a great many of the fans of the Edmonton Oilers, it seems like just yesterday Wayne Gretzky scored 55 goals and added 109 assists for 164 points in his second season in the NHL.

But it wasn’t, was it?

It was in the olden days to Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, a pair of players going into their second NHL season and having the exceptional experience of sharing the same stage with The Great One Friday night at the Kinsmen club presentation of The Legends Experience.

The age difference between and these two and the legend is about the same as it is between Gretzky, 50, and his idol, Gordie Howe, 83.

The difference, of course, is that Gretzky met Howe at a dinner when he was about 10 and had the famous photo taken with Gordie hooking him with a stick around his neck.

Another difference is that Gretzky played with Howe in the World Hockey Association All-Star game in Edmonton against the Russians.

Eberle was born on the day the Oilers won Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final the last time the team won the Cup in 1990. Gretzky had played his second season as a Los Angeles King that year.

Hall was eight when No. 99 had his Great Goodbye game in Madison Square Garden in 1999.

They never even saw the guy play.

Asked if he was nervous, Eberle said that’s not the word he would use.

“I’m excited. I’ve never even met him before.

“At the draft I saw him. But I never met him.”

Hall has never met Gretzky either or set eyes on him live and in person.

“I can’t wait. He’s the best player to ever play the game. I’m going to be in the presence of The Great One.”

The organizers are trying to keep the lid on what’s going to happen, exactly, during the evening, but Hall and Eberle aren’t there to deliver their own speeches.

“We’re going to ask Wayne questions,” Eberle revealed.

“I’m not allowed to tell what my questions are going to be, though.”

Hall said he has hundreds of questions but there’s some stuff he wants to know more than anything else.

“I want to know about the times he had here in Edmonton, what it was like in the city back then,” said last year’s No. 1 pick in the NHL Entry draft.

Maybe they should ask Gretzky about his first game against the Montreal Canadiens and the conversation he had with Guy LaFleur at the end of the game.

“He called me Mr. LaFleur,” The Flower ratted him out. “And then he asked me for a couple of autographs.”

“I have a Gretzky card signed by him. A friend who had a connection with the L.A. Kings got it for me when I was a kid,” said Eberle.

“I received a signed picture from him about three years ago,” said Hall.

“I signed a couple of pictures for his dad Walter for a fundraiser and Wayne sent it to me as a thank-you. It was something pretty nice to do by a guy who is a legend.”

Gretzky, who surprised Dustin Nielson and Kyle Chase with a call to their morning show on Team 1260 Wednesday and volunteered that he thinks the young talent on the current Oilers team is fortunate to be where they are, when they are.

“Where they’re really lucky, the Edmonton fans have gone through this before. In 1979-80, when we started off as a young team, they understood that it takes three or four years or five years to build from a young team. So the fans are going to be patient with them as long as they work hard. If they do that then it’ll go great for them.

“It’s going to be an exciting team to watch in the future. Without question, they have some of the best young talent in the National Hockey League.”

It’s that connection with the Gretzky era and the talent being assembled here that has me (and hopefully Sun contest winners Tina Strasbourg and George Urban and their groups of four who will be sitting at a table I’ve been asked to host) most looking forward to the evening.

“That was a special team at the right time and right place,” said Hall. “We have a lot of good young players all coming in at the same time who all have a pretty good relationship with each other ...”

For a night, at least, people can remember the way it was and maybe dream of the way it could be again.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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