Unpleasant sendoff
New York media in Gretzky frenzy
LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

NEW YORK -- The Great One is a great story in Times Square.

Wayne Gretzky's face was everywhere yesterday around Manhattan, his hockey home with the New York Rangers from 1996-99.

But this wasn't the Great Goodbye tribute coverage of 1999, when he played his final NHL game in Ranger colours. He and wife Janet were the subject of tabloid headlines such as Gretzky and Betzky, Wayne's World of Trouble and Gretzky Wiretap Ice Storm. The Daily News and New York Post both had the Gretzkys on front and back covers, with salacious pictures of Janet as the line item in news and sports.

Updates on the ongoing NHL betting scandal were prominent on the Square's big bulletin crawlers, gawked at by tens of thousands of commuters and tourists 24 hours a day. Gretzky eclipsed local stories such as a rise in crime stats and a messy split between actress Ellen Barkin and Revlon cosmetics boss Ron Perelman.

"This is incredible," said Michael, a Daily News vendor at the corner of 42nd and 6th. "I've sold 210 papers in under three hours, twice as many as normal. People are passing by, looking at the paper's headline and laughing and then coming back to buy."

But John Davidson, the lead analyst for the MSG Network and a friend of Gretzky's, felt all the attention in the Big Apple was unwarranted.

"I know it's the media capital of the U.S. and this is a big story, but give me a break," Davidson said before a game between the Rangers and the Maple Leafs last night. "I hope there's an understanding here that he hasn't been charged with anything and we should respect that he is trying to protect his wife. No one is quite sure where this is all going."

Davidson said Gretzky, the person, did a lot in a short time in New York.

"He wasn't here very long, but he touched a lot of people and always in a positive way," Davidson said. "As a player, if they'd had more good guys here to be on his line, he might have got 200 more points.

"But if there was something someone here needed, a visit, a round of golf or help getting seats at a good restaurant, then he made a lot of good friends. To see people trying to sniff out a story, and I realize the media has a job to do, is difficult to watch."