ex-goalie of no great renown, must have been sensitive to the burden of wearing
a 1 on one's back. Born Murray MacPherson, Muzz has been called Muzz so long
that he looks like a Muzz. He is a cheerful bowling ball of a man and a
practiced referee baiter. Fans battle for seats behind the Greyhound bench to
hear him carry on:
Dandy call, Mike. Just tell me one time why that looked like a charge to you
when the same play 10 seconds ago didn't. Tell me that, Mike. Mike, I know
you're not a homer. Don't look at me like I'm calling you a homer, Mike. You
homer! Who said that?"
Muzz' hand, pudgy
by nature, is swollen as round as a hockey puck from punching a railing during
a recent loss. "Why not give him 99?" he shrugs. "He wanted it. The
kid was going to be a marked man anyway. The way he plays, are you
To be a marked
man in Junior is not a terrific honor. For every player trying to make it into
the pros as a goal scorer, there are five or six trying to get there because
they can hit people into next week. Then there are the delightful few who don't
worry much about next week, concentrating instead on, oh, the next three months
in the hospital. Gretzky, so elusive on skates that he is nearly impossible to
tag with a hard check, is subject to slashings across the wrists and legs that
leave them a mass of welts after each game. Three times this season he has gone
to the hospital for postgame X rays.
"It scares me
to think there might be some big son of a gun who is just out there on the ice
to try to get me out of the game," Gretzky admits. "Guys are always
telling me that the next time I touch the puck, they're going to stuff their
sticks down my throat. What can you do? You've got to go ahead and tough it and
hope they were kidding."
have loaded their bags onto a chartered, 30-year-old DC-3. Sault Ste. Marie is
situated in Ontario approximately the way El Paso is in Texas, and the Hounds
are the only OHA team to travel by plane. Next to Sudbury, which is a 186-mile
stone's throw away, Sault Ste. Marie's nearest opponent in the 12-city OHA is
423 miles yonder.
The crew is late,
but has carefully remembered to prop open the plane's door in the sub-zero
cold. The interior of the DC-3 is lined with the recycled aluminum of old ice
chests, and the players huddle in the seats like cubes in a tray. To pass the
time, Muzz relates the story of the four-hour roller-coaster flight they took
in November of 1975, the day the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald sank in a Lake
Superior gale. "Thought I was a goner," he says.
Wonder," someone yells. "Make some more headlines. Fly us out of here.
Gretzky is used
to the flak. He enjoys it, as he enjoys all the attention showered on him. It
is a system of checks and balances devised by his teammates so that all the
hoopla doesn't go to his head.
Earlier in the
year, on a day he was scheduled for a television interview, Gretzky lost an
eyebrow and some other, less visible hair to the razors of the Soo veterans.
They also loaded his hair with Vaseline. The kid had been initiated. Undaunted,
Gretzky had Sylvia Bodner, whose family he lives with in Sault Ste. Marie,
apply her eyeliner to his brow and use steam, detergent, lemonade and
Bromo—"Kind of made my scalp sore"—to remove the Vaseline in time for
the evening news. In another ploy, the team had the Soo police arrest Gretzky
for streaking. "I've got to call my agent," he pleaded. He was
innocently sitting in the back of the team bus in his shorts and sneakers when
the police arrived. And in Ottawa a teammate, masquerading as a press
secretary, phoned and asked Gretzky to lunch with Prime Minister Pierre
Trudeau. Gretzky took a rain check, explaining that he had to eat a training