Gretzky's great regret

Wayne Gretzky is cheering for his former team, the L.A. Kings, this Stanley Cup final. (QMI Agency...

Wayne Gretzky is cheering for his former team, the L.A. Kings, this Stanley Cup final. (QMI Agency file photo)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:25 AM ET

EDMONTON - It’s Wayne Gretzky’s Great Regret.

And he’s going to be there cheering for the Los Angeles Kings to finally get done what he didn’t get done in 1993.

Gretzky says he’ll be going to Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final in Los Angeles. And one suspects he’ll play a significant role in ceremonies for the first Stanley Cup final in L.A. since the only one ever held there before, the one he led the Kings to in 1993.

“Probably the two greatest regrets I have in playing hockey were being swept by the New York Islanders in our first Stanley Cup final in Edmonton and losing that Stanley Cup final in 1993 with the L.A. Kings,” Gretzky said in a telephone interview with your correspondent Tuesday.

Considering the Islanders were a dynasty and that was the Oilers first year in the Stanley Cup final, he suggest that makes 1993 the biggest regret that way.

“Losing that Stanley Cup final in 1993 was devastating. I think about it all the time.

“I see a lot of parallels with Los Angeles in it again this year and when we made it back in 1993.

“One thing I remember is that all our series started on the road. One thing that is definitely different though is that all our games on the road were in Canada. We played Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. We were the only team to go to the Stanley Cup final and play all four of our series against Canadian teams.

“What made the 1993 team special is that we weren’t the best team. It’s very similar to this year’s team. They started every game on the road, too.

“If you asked any hockey expert back in 1993, we weren’t high on anybody’s list to get to the final. And the Kings were eighth this year, although there’s a lot more parity today and if they’d won a couple more games they could have been third by finishing first in their division.

“There’s no question, though, since the playoffs started the L.A. Kings have been the best team to come out of the West. The games have been close but the series haven’t been close. They’re definitely peaking at the right time.”

Gretzky has amazing recall of all the games back in 1993.

“I remember Game 5 in Vancouver Gary Shuchuk of Edmonton scored the winner, he picked one out of the air.”

He didn’t mention Game 6 against Toronto when he scored the winner or Game 7 where he scored three goals and an assist in a 5-4 win.

“We went straight from Toronto to the Montreal for the final and we won Game 1,” remembered Gretzky.

Game 2, of course, is where it happened. Marty McSorley was caught with an illegal stick on a measurement and a Kings lead turned into an overtime loss.

“We knew they’d call somebody’s stick,” said Gretzky.

“And, yes, it turned around the series, no question.

“But do I feel it was Marty’s fault? No. Marty probably played his best hockey in those playoffs that year. But I really believe if we’d taken a 2-0 lead in the series it would have been tough for Montreal to win four of the next five. We lost three of four in overtime, Games 2-3-4.”

You’d figure that the Miracle On Manchester series the Oilers lost to the L.A. Kings would rank right up there on Gretzky’s on-ice regrets lists, but the monumental collapse of the Oilers leading Game 3 5-0 and losing the best of five series — an event which hit its 30th anniversary year this season — doesn’t register that way, he insists.

“Maybe it’s because I ended up on both sides of it,” said the greatest player in the history of hockey who Peter Pocklington sold to Bruce McNall in L.A.

“It’s the most recognized moment in the history of the Kings. But on the other side of it, it’s the series I believe that made the Edmonton Oilers,” he said of the third-year NHL team which amassed 111-points in the standings.

“It was a huge lesson for us. We lost Game 1 10-8, Game 3 6-5 and Game 5 7-4. The games we won were 3-2 and 3-2. There was a lot of lesson in there.”

I told Gretzky about the old Northlands Coliseum seat the Oilers presented me at a luncheon for my Hockey Hall of Fame honour in the fall and how the last line on the wooden seat-back inscription featured the words from my column back then: “Weak-kneed wimps.”

He roared with laughter.

“That was the reality,” he said.

Gretzky says he was part of giving the Kings that one. And he’ll be there cheering for them to win this even bigger one.

“This is the most excitement there’s been for hockey in L.A. since 1993 and it’s time. Obviously I’m pulling for L.A,” he said.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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