forward has just trapped Gretzky against the boards and, surprised to have him
pinned, rams the kid's face against the glass for good measure.
"Got to run
into him once in a while, Sam," the coach answers with a smile. "Don't
get a chance very often."
stuff, Bert, and you know it!" Rap, rap. "I like to give it to Bert.
He's all right."
Sam sits back.
"See all them little guys?" he says, pointing to the mobs of youngsters
in their team jackets. "They only come to see the kid. There wasn't a one
here when he was off playing in that Junior tournament in Montreal."
headmaster at Sir James Dunn School, which Gretzky and most of the other
Greyhound players attend, is also at the game. He has a far better attendance
record at the rink than they do at the school. "We've got to be honest with
ourselves. They're here to play hockey," he says. "Their education is
second. We do what we can." He pauses.
"Gretzky?" he says. "He's an unassuming kid who's doing a helluva
job right now just rolling with the punches. I don't worry about his kind of
pressure. In a year or so he'll be in my office talking about more money than
I'll make the rest of my life.
kids, the fringe players, are the ones with the pressures. They come to a town,
settle in a school, then in two months are traded away. They're living out
their parents' dreams of glory, maybe, hoping they'll be drafted by the
pros—then when they're not, where does that leave them? They're the ones with
Every year about
this time, some of the Greyhounds come into Muzz' office and ask him in what
round he thinks they'll be drafted. Most of them won't be picked in any round.
"Muzz'll tell them the only draft they'll get is on their butts as they
walk out the door," says Tom McLeod, himself a fringe player now in his
draft year. "So you try it as a free agent, and if you're not good enough
for that, you try the International League."
you're not good enough for that, you go back to Sudbury and be a miner,"
adds Rich Duguay, who, like McLeod, has been traded twice since the season's
Gretzky is a
lucky one. The luckiest of the lucky ones. Right now, the National Hockey
League and the World Hockey Association have an agreement with the Junior
leagues not to draft any players before they complete their Junior careers at
the age of 20. For Gretzky, that will be 1981. But there is very little
chance—make that zero chance—he will have to wait that long. His agent, Gus
Badali, specializes in procuring six-figure contracts for underage Juniors.
Wayne Dillon (now with the New York Rangers), John Tonelli ( Houston Aeros) and
Mark Napier (Birmingham Bulls) all signed with the WHA while being represented
by Badali. And the talent-hungry, publicity-starved WHA will require little
arm-twisting to bid for Gretzky. Last September, for instance, Birmingham
ignored the established rules of drafting and signed 18-year-old Ken Linseman
to a lucrative contract.