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Ducks blank Kings at Dodger Stadium as Wayne Gretzky’s influence lingers

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Wayne Gretzky was instrumental in bringing hockey to California, even forseeing the Stadium Series (Robert Beck/SI)

Wayne Gretzky was instrumental in the growth of hockey in California, even forseeing the Stadium Series. (Robert Beck/SI)

By Gabriel Baumgaertner

When Jeremy Roenick interviewed Wayne Gretzky before the puck dropped at Dodger Stadium, he revealed that Gretzky considered this idea about 20 years ago: What could an outdoor game do for hockey’s popularity in L.A.? The Kings had history, but no one had really ignited the city’s passion for the sport until The Great One arrived in 1988. Five years later, the NHL formed the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (now just the Ducks) — an expansion team across the 5 freeway with a Disney-inspired name.

Southern California had two NHL teams, but the wrong kind of weather and limited access to ice. Growing the sport would be no easy task in that sun-drenched environment.

Two decades later, Gretzky’s vision came together at Los Angeles’s most iconic stadium. Dodger Stadium wasn’t merely hosting the Ducks and the Kings, it was the site of a regular season game between two of the league’s best franchises in front of 54,099 fans. By the end of the season, either the Kings or Ducks could feasibly hoist their second Stanley Cup in a decade. The Ducks now have the best record in the NHL and it will be a shock if the Kings don’t make the playoffs. As legendary broadcaster Vin Scully helped emphasize before the game, Dodger Stadium had hosted the World Series, the Pope, the Harlem Globetrotters, Real Madrid and The Beatles. Now, it was hosting hockey.

GALLERY: NHL outdoor games through the years | NEWCOMB: The making of stadium hockey

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  • Published On Jan 26, 2014
  • Wayne Gretzky talks SNL, Waikiki Hockey, during appearance on Conan

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    By Allan Muir

    Not to be all cynical about the timing or anything, but it sure worked out well that Wayne Gretzky was willing to jump back on board with the NHL (after he was made whole financially for his Coyotes coaching deal) just in time to lead the promotion of this weekend’s outdoor game at Dodger Stadium.

    The Great One has been front and center selling the event, including a splashy national appearance on Conan O’Brien’s show on Thursday night. Looking pretty comfortable in the big chair, Gretzky talked about realizing when it was time for him to retire, playing at 147 pounds and how he found out he’d be hosting Saturday Night Live. [Spoiler alert: he didn't agree to do it.]

    And who knew the infamous “Waikiki Hockey” sketch was O’Brien’s debut on SNL as well?

    Nobody sells the game better than Wayne. Good to have him back.


  • Published On Jan 24, 2014
  • The Wayne Gretzky trade: What the world was like on August 9, 1988

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    Wayne Gretzky and his wife Janet Jones at the press conference announcing his trade to the LA Kings

    The Great One and his new Mrs. contemplate their change of address. (Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

    By John Rolfe

    The 20th anniversary of Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington doing the unthinkable — trading hockey’s greatest and most famous player — has been commemorated far and wide, its impact and legacy constantly assessed. The maker of ESPN’s “Kings Ransom” installment of its 30 for 30 series weighed in, and The Hockey News offered up a rather nice oral history. Here’s a snapshot of what the NHL and the world looked like on that epic summer day.

    CAZENEUVE: Rating the Gretzky trade and other landmark deals

    Photos: Superstars who were traded in their prime | Rare shots of the Great One

    Notable events in hockey

    • John Ziegler was in his 11th year as the NHL’s  President (Gary Bettman was still toiling for the NBA).

    • Mario Lemieux had ended Wayne Gretzky’s streak of seven consecutive scoring titles and eight straight Hart trophies as the league’s MVP. (Gretzky’s consolation: his fourth Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy, breaking Gordie Howe’s all-time assist record of 1,049 on March 1, and his marriage to Janet Jones on July 16.)

    • The New Jersey Devils, once famously derided by Gretzky as a “Mickey Mouse organization” made the playoffs for the first time and reached the Wales Conference Finals.

    • Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld got himself suspended for calling referee Don Koharski a fat pig while telling him to “eat another donut” after a 6-1 loss to Boston in Game 3 of the conference finals. NHL refs walked out in protest after the Devils got a restraining order that allowed Schoenfeld to coach Game 4, forcing the league to use scab officials. Schoenfeld was eventually suspended for Game 5 — which turned out to be GM Lou Lamoriello’s head coaching debut.

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  • Published On Aug 09, 2013
  • Top Line: Gretzky to the Leafs, Hiller’s new mask, more

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    Wayne Gretzky is rumored to be joining the Toronto Maple Leafs

    The Great One is rumored to be looming over Toronto’s perennially fallen Leafs.  (Nick Turchiano/Icon SMI/Getty)

    By Allan Muir

    Purple Monkey Dishwasher. Does Wayne Gretzky want to be president of the Toronto Maple Leafs? Probably not, but someone speculated about it on the radio, then the internet got ahold of it, so apparently now it’s a thing.

    Don’t jump! Is this the first suspendable hit of the season? Nick Kypreos was the first to report on Twitter that Brayden Schenn would hear from Brendan Shanahan today after he leapt off the ice just prior to making contact with Anton Volchenkov. Hard to determine the first point of contact from this video, but it doesn’t appear to be the head. Still, there’s a desire to eliminate hits that involve leaving the ice, and since there was no penalty called on the play, the guess here is that Schenn will face a fine if nothing else.

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  • Published On Jan 23, 2013
  • Hockey’s the most photogenic of sports

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    Brett Hull’s controversial Stanley Cup-winning “foot in the crease” goal from 1999 is surely one of hockey’s most memorable photos. (Elsa Hasch/Allsport/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    There’s not much coming out of New York on the CBA negotiations — and perhaps no news is good news (except when it’s not). So let’s go elsewhere for today’s post. On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated rolled out its Top 100 sports photos of all time on SI.com, images that have appeared in the magazine and elsewhere, culled from thousands that the editors considered. It’s a fantastic gallery that you should view. Some are iconic and well-known, others not as much, but all are excellent examples of sports photography, if not breathtaking then at least historically momentous.

    Of the 100, five were hockey photos. They included Bobby Orr’s Stanley Cup-winning goal against the Blues in 1970 at Number 80; the 1980 Miracle on Ice U.S. Olympic team’s victorious moment against the Soviet national team at Lake Placid at Number 78 (an SI cover that, as I recall, is one of the few that had no words on it beside the magazine name); Wayne Gretzky waving goodbye to fans after his final game at Madison Square Garden in 1999 at Number 74; and Canadiens goalie Jacques Plante crouching to find the puck in a 1957 game against the Rangers, another SI cover shot, at Number 60. Gretzky scoring his 802nd career goal against the Canucks in 1994, making him the top professional goal scorer of all time, was the highest rated hockey photo at Number 14.

    One of the points of a list like this is to spark discussion and debate, and I’ll gladly comply.

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  • Published On Nov 07, 2012
  • Devils still fighting for recognition

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    The Devils have a 3-0 lead in Stanley Cups over their cross-river rivals since the Rangers last won the chalice, but trail badly in fan popularity and media coverage. (Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The Rangers visit New Jersey on Saturday afternoon for Game 3, and on Monday Night for Game 4, of their Eastern Conference Championship series and a case can be made that this is the biggest series in Devils franchise history.

    Yes, of course: the match-ups that the Devils won in 1995, 2000 and 2003 to win the Stanley Cup count as huge series, monumental in scope. But now they have a chance to repay New York for that memorable third round defeat in 1994, the decision coming in the second overtime period of Game 7, which sent the Rangers on to the Cup final and thrust the Devils back into their shadows. That was the game ended by Stephane Matteau and it gets played and replayed endlessly on MSG Network, the TV home of the Rangers and the Devils.

    And even though the Devils can claim three Cups to the Rangers’ one since 1994, in the Broadway Blueshirts’ shadow they remain — maybe not in the hockey world, where the Devs are a respected franchise, but on their home turf in the New York metropolitan area. The Rangers dominate the scene over the Devils as well as the somnolent Islanders and a head-to-head victory in this round might earn New Jersey a bigger, long-deserved share of the spotlight.

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  • Published On May 18, 2012
  • NHL tries to restore order

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    Refs seem to have rediscovered the idea that sending a player to the box and leaving his team in a potentially costly penalty-kill is one of the best ways to curb on-ice mayhem. (Mark Goldman/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    Perhaps Wednesday will go down as the day the NHL regained some control over the Stanley Cup playoffs and did it in the most logical manner – having the referees call penalties rather than “let the boys play.”

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  • Published On Apr 19, 2012
  • Ailing Beliveau one of a kind

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    Big and tall, yet a graceful skater, the legendary Jean Beliveau was the personification of a classy player. (Denis Brodeur/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    In this darkest of seasons for Canadiens fans, the bad news continues to pile up. Their loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday night dropped them three points behind the Islanders and Hurricanes for last place in the East. They were unable to peddle anyone other than the disappointing Andrei Kostitsyn on Monday’s trade deadline day, prompting The Montreal Gazette’s Red Fisher to write, “Once, teams would line up looking for help from this franchise. The view was that if a player was good enough to wear the CH, he surely had something to offer. Now, the franchise is in disarray from the top down. Now, it’s an embarrassment unworthy of attention. Where has the talent gone? Where has the pride gone?”

    And then the news came that Jean Beliveau, the man who personifies talent and pride — not just for the Canadiens, but all of hockey — had suffered a stroke, the latest of his many health setbacks. The living symbol of everything this franchise has wanted to stand for — excellence, achievement, dignity, class, respect — had been laid so low that Fisher concluded his Wednesday Gazette article on Beliveau with the three words he often reserves for those whose health is at grave risk: “Pray for him.”

    Those of you born well after Beliveau’s playing career ended in 1971 may well wonder, “Who is this man I’m asked to pray for?” and it’s a legitimate question.

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  • Published On Feb 29, 2012
  • Is Ovechkin a victim of his own fame?

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    Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby have been the NHL’s marquee stars for six years, but only Ovechkin has been hit with the charge that his fame has negatively affected the level of his play. (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    I know very little about what goes on in the NBA — as a hockey guy, some of that is by necessity and some by choice — but it’s impossible to avoid Jeremy Lin. This young basketball player has come out of nowhere to emerge as an instant worldwide breakout celebrity on the basis of two weeks’ worth of  performances for the New York Knicks and his name and his image are seemingly everywhere. You can’t miss him if you try, even if you have no clue (as I did until a few days ago) about what he’s done to deserve all the attention and acclaim.

    The question here is: why doesn’t something like this happen more often with hockey players? What follows isn’t meant to supply any answers as much as probe the question itself.

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  • Published On Feb 16, 2012
  • Winter Classic foes continue their historic rivalry

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    The Flyers and Rangers have been at each other’s throats since the days of Dave Schultz and Philly’s infamous Broad Street Bullies. (Rusty Kennedy/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    After months of buildup and promotion, the Winter Classic is finally upon us. It is, of course, nothing more than Game 569 of the regular season schedule, worth the same two points in the standings as any other game — or (sigh) two for the winner and one for the loser if it ends in a regulation tie.

    But the exposure and popularity this unique game has brought to hockey during the past four years can’t — and shouldn’t — be denied. For that we must credit the NHL’s partnership with NBC. Their deal may be far less lucrative for the league’s teams than the ones enjoyed by other major pro sports, but it’s the best the league has ever had, especially because
    NBC and its offshoots respect the product and help create new ways to expose it.

    The same can be said for the NHL’s deal with HBO which, through its”24/7″ series, provides an unprecedented look at the run-up to the game. Nothing has ever come close to bringing viewers inside the NHL as it really is, looks and sounds.

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  • Published On Dec 30, 2011


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