Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Kings’ trade for Wayne Gretzky …
Not everyone who showed up to see the Great One at the Forum during the 1988-89 season was hockey fan. Quite a few couldn’t tell the difference between the blue line and the red line, but that certainly didn’t dampen their enthusiasm for Gretzky’s arrival in a blockbuster deal that made the Kings the hottest ticket in Los Angeles.
One night, I went with a bunch of friends from work to the Forum to see Gretzky and the Kings. I can’t recall the opponent that night, but I do remember one fan’s obvious anger and frustration when the Kings’ starting lineup was announced and Gretzky wasn’t among the starters. The man didn’t seem to grasp the concept of lines and shifts and matchups and other nuances of the game of hockey. He exploded, “Why isn’t Gretzky starting? Is he hurt? That coach must be crazy! He should be fired.”
Once the game began, and the Kings began to ice their lines shift by shift, the man grew all the more impatient. “Where’s Gretzky at? Where’s Gretzky at?” he screamed. Finally, 99 hit the ice with his linemates and the man was satisfied. But only briefly. After a couple of trips up and down the ice, a typical 50-second shift, Gretzky and his linemates went back to the bench and were replaced by another trio of forwards.
“Wait, where’s Gretzky going?” the irate fan screamed.
At halftime, as the fan called the first intermission, someone nearby tried to explain the game a little bit to the man. He nodded a lot, but seemed confused. He followed the crowd after the second intermission and never came back for the third period. Maybe he thought the game was over. Gretzky’s reach was great, but apparently not that great.