"I remember the time he tried to scrap with Neal Broten, and it looked like they were dancing...."
And so forth. Listeners who contributed the best Gretzky memories were awarded copies of the Pink Floyd album Momentary Lapse of Reason. The night of the big game, the cover charge at Goose Loonies, a nightclub over on Edmonton's south side, was 99 cents.
Did Gretzky really think he might be booed? The instant he stepped on the ice for the pregame skate, he was showered with full-throated expressions of adoration. Later, the cheers came to a deafening crescendo when the Kings took the ice just before the national anthems. For almost four minutes, 17,503 people stood as one and paid lusty tribute. Would they cheer? Indeed. Would they ever stop?
The love-in might have lasted much longer had not Oiler officials, trying to act as though nothing extraordinary were afoot, trundled out Edmontonian Tim Feehan to sing the national anthems right on schedule. But the real wet blanket was Ftorek, who didn't put Gretzky among the first five Kings to take the ice. No matter. Everyone present knew what was happening. Pocklington looked down from his luxury box with McNall at his side. When asked if he would sit with Pocklington, McNall had said, "As long as the glass is bulletproof."
Down the drain without Wayne prophesied one gloomy sign. Wrong. With Melanson still shell-shocked from his misadventure in Calgary. Ftorek went with Glenn Healy in the net, and Healy promptly let six of the Oilers' first 15 shots get behind him. Not that he was entirely to blame. As had been the case in Calgary, the Kings defensemen were abominable.
And Gretzky was a little too keyed up. He did have two assists, but he misfired or was robbed by Fuhr on his four strong scoring chances. The one-on-one confrontation that both Gretzky and Lowe dreaded didn't come off, as Lowe, still woozy from a concussion suffered in a game against Calgary the previous week, sat out. But Messier, with whom Gretzky would share a quiet meal after the game, wasted no time depositing 99 on the seat of his shiny new black shorts. He later devoured the Kings' helpless defensemen, scoring on two of his patented rocket-wrist shots, the first while the Oilers were shorthanded. to put them up 4-1.
Damned if L.A. would roll over, though. Every time it looked as though the rout was on, some non-Gretzky King would pop a goal and keep the visitors in it. Still, no matter how close the Kings came this night, one suspected that Messier would never let his team lose.
"Down the right side, snap the puck in—I've seen him do it a hundred times." said Gretzky of his successor's first goal. "Mess is a great, great hockey player," continued the Great One, a twinkle in his eye. "I just wish he was for sale."