ALSO ON SLAM!
Monday, April 19, 1999
Terry Jones takes a look at the life of Wayne Gretzky
The Royal Wedding
Wayne's marriage to actress Janet Jones was a Cinderella script with a touch of Hollywood
There was a report on the bachelor bash at which best man Eddie Mio declared Wayne "the happiest I've seen him in 10 years.''
There was a story on the $250,000 of jewelry, most of it on one finger, that Janet would wear on her wedding day. There were stories on her wedding dress and about anybody who was anybody who had anything to do with the wedding or who had received an invitation to the event.
The guest list included virtually the entire Oilers family, Hollywood's Alan Thicke, David Foster and Tim Feehan, hockey's hierarchy including John Zeigler, Alan Eagleson, Mike Keenan, Vladislav Tretiak and Gordie Howe. Jackie Parker and several members of the Eskimos family were invited.
And, yes, even a small number of media, including a hockey writer by the name of Chubey and a columnist by the name of Jones.
Here's how The Sun saw it:
"Edmonton's favourite son Wayne Douglas Gretzky took Janet Marie Jones for his wife in a colourful ceremony full of style and elegance.
"The bride, dressed in a magnificent white satin gown rumoured to have cost $40,000, and Wayne, looking slightly nervous throughout in his traditional black tuxedo, exchanged vows before more than 650 selected guests at St. Joseph's Basilica.
"While 3,000 well-wishers waited outside, the hushed audience inside listened as Wayne and Janet repeated their vows in unison.
"Wayne arrived 30 minutes before the service was to begin, accompanied by his best man, Eddie Mio. Groomsmen were Mark Messier, Kevin Lowe, Paul Coffey, brothers Glen, Brent and Keith Gretzky ...
"When he walked down the aisle it was at the side of his parents, Walter and Phyllis Gretzky ... As he walked past his grandmother, 84-year-old Mary Gretzky, Wayne gave her a wink and the thumbs-up sign.
"When the pair left the church following the ceremony they were welcomed warmly by the crowd. Wayne looked relieved while his bride appeared overjoyed as they posed and kissed on the steps of St. Joseph's, much to the delight of cheering onlookers.''
It looked for all the world that day, as if Wayne and Janet and Edmonton would live happily ever after.
But then those nasty rumours started swirling ... rumours of the unthinkable.
"The rumour has been running rampant for days: Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings for $18 million," began the story under my byline on Aug. 4, 1988.
" 'There is nothing to it,' said Oilers president, general manager and coach Glen Sather. `Every summer it's a different rumour. This one goes in the same bin as all the other ones. Put it with the ones about him going to the New York Rangers, the Detroit Red Wings, the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames. I don't even know where Wayne and Janet are. If there was anything like that I assume Peter Pocklington would let me know. There is nothing to it.' ''
Where were you when John F. Kennedy was shot? Everybody remembers. And everybody in Edmonton will likely remember where they were when they heard the news that Wayne Gretzky had been traded to the Los Angeles Kings.
From my column at the time:
"Shock. Outrage. Anger. None of those emotions quite cover it, do they?
"The emotions we're dealing with here are not unlike those of a death in the family. A death not by natural causes.
"Wayne Gretzky is more than the greatest player in the history of hockey. He is more than the most dominant team sport athlete in history. He's that to the world. But to Edmonton ... Wayne Gretzky was our mark on the map. This morning our city can only be in a state of mourning.
"Babe Ruth was once traded from the Boston Braves to the New York Yankees. I can't think of anything else that can compare. And, really, even that doesn't do it. Babe Ruth wasn't Babe Ruth then. He hadn't put up the numbers which, to this day, separate him from everybody else who has ever played the game. He hadn't won the World Series four times yet. He wasn't in his prime, at the very peak of his career.
"This, unquestionably, is the biggest deal in hockey history. This, arguably, is the biggest deal in the history of professional sport.
"Was it for love? Or money?
"How did it happen?
"You can believe what you want. I know what I believe. With every bone in my body, I know what I believe.
"I know the instant reaction is to first finger the blushing bride. She stole our Wayne away. You can believe, if you wish, all the white-knight stuff about doing what Wayne wanted. I don't buy it ... I believe the suggestion that the whole thing was Wayne's idea is quite likely a crock.''
I fingered Peter Pocklington.
Best man Mio went on the record as saying there was no way Gretzky asked for the trade: "Gretzky never initiated any deal. Wayne loves Edmonton. He never wanted to leave. It's really important people know this wasn't Wayne and Janet's idea.''
Coffey checked in with a similar quote: "I talked with Wayne after the Stanley Cup and he said, 'I'm happy. I'll play here forever.' ''
Sather had very little to say. And Gretzky was refusing to say anything.
But Janet Jones-Gretzky phoned me in Kansas City and said she was not going to let her husband sit silent and go down in hockey history as an egomaniac and a Canadian treasure-turned-traitor.
"Peter Pocklington is the reason Wayne Gretzky is no longer an Edmonton Oiler,'' she began. "The key to everything that happened was an event five days after our wedding. Pocklington gave Bruce McNall permission to take Wayne if he could do it. And that did it!
"The story of the trade as presented by Peter Pocklington is false. Pocklington is the reason Wayne is gone. I know the real story. I know Wayne didn't deserve any of this. He wouldn't let Edmonton fans, Canada and, most important, his teammates down without good reason.
"This is what happened. The day after the Stanley Cup, Pocklington told Wayne about an offer from Vancouver. Wayne said to Pocklington: 'I can't believe you coming to me with this the day after we win the Stanley Cup.' It was obvious Peter did not have Wayne's backing and he backed out of the Vancouver deal.
"Before the wedding, Wayne had heard so many rumours about being traded and sold he asked Pocklington about them. Pocklington suggested Wayne come to his office to talk about it. He told Wayne there was nothing to them. Wayne told me, 'Janet, all the rumours are false.' This was the day before our wedding. I brought my car to Edmonton. We had every intention of living the rest of our lives in Edmonton.
"Five days after the wedding, Wayne got a call from Bruce McNall. He told Wayne that he had talked to Pocklington and Peter had told him, 'If you can swing him over, you've got him.'
"Five days after the wedding, Wayne had no intention of leaving the Edmonton Oilers.'' Part 6