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Speculation abounds about Gretzky's possible retirement
Posted: Tuesday April 13, 1999 01:49 AM
As far as one old friend is concerned, the answer won't come easily, and certainly won't come soon.
"Knowing Wayne, he would weigh everything and talk to a lot of people before making that decision," said Bruce MacGregor, assistant general manager of the Edmonton Oilers. "It's a very hard decision. When you retire, it's for a long time."
MacGregor, instrumental in bringing Gretzky to the Oilers, said "it wouldn't shock me" if he did call it a career.
"It's been a frustrating year for him ... the way the club has played and the [neck injury]. Those kind of injuries bother you a lot," MacGregor said in a telephone interview from Edmonton. "Maybe there's some speculation that he's not 100 percent.
"I suspect [Gretzky's retirement] would have to do more with this than anything else."
Bill Tuele, another member of the Oilers' organization who also is a close friend of Gretzky, was fairly sure he would not retire after this season.
"I will say this, Wayne has not shared any final decision with anyone," said Tuele, Edmonton's vice president and public relations head. "Wayne's dad doesn't know."
Tuele, in an interview from San Jose, Calif., where the Oilers are playing the Sharks, said he has had conversations with Gretzky over the season. While not able to share anything private, Tuele said, "I honestly don't think he'll retire [now]. He'll keep playing until [he can't]."
Rangers broadcaster John Davidson raised the issue on Sunday while broadcasting the Detroit-Pittsburgh game on Fox TV.
"... The people very close to Wayne ... and I mean very close, feel there's a very strong possibility Sunday will be the last time he plays," Davidson said in part, referring to the Rangers' season-ender against Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden.
Before Monday night's game against Tampa Bay, Gretzky denied that he was planning to announce his retirement at the end of the season.
The Rangers have long been eliminated from the playoffs.
Mike Barnett, Gretzky's agent, did not immediately return a call. Rangers general manager Neil Smith was not immediately available.
Gretzky has said all along that he would make his decision about his future in hockey after the season. After a February game in Calgary, Gretzky admitted it was his last game there because the Rangers would not play there next season.
He received an emotional response that night from the Calgary fans, and has received similar tributes in other arenas throughout the season.
It hasn't been a typical season for Gretzky, who missed 11 games at one point with a neck injury. He had played in 223 straight games since signing with the Rangers as a free agent in 1996.
The injury was the second in Gretzky's career involving a disc. In 1992-93, he missed most of the season with a lower back injury before coming back to lead the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup finals.
The 1998-99 season has included at least one important milestone for the NHL's leading career scorer. His ninth goal of the year gave him 1,072 as a professional, moving him past boyhood hero Gordie Howe.
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