Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gretzky and Friends Show Players Can Take Their Show on the Road

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gretzky and Friends Show Players Can Take Their Show on the Road

Article excerpt

As the National Hockey League owners and players bargained in Chicago, Wayne Gretzky's magical mystery tour began here Thursday night.

Team Gretzky - a montage of Gretzky's buddies, All-Stars and Los Angeles Kings teammates - played the Detroit Vipers in an exhibition game at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Immediately after the game, the team departed on a chartered Boeing 727 bound for Helsinki, Finland, where it plays Saturday afternoon in the first game of a hastily planned six-game, nine-day Scandinavian tour.

"This is quite a venture," Gretzky said. "We haven't played in three months, but we'll play three games in four nights in three different countries."

All the while wondering whether they'll actually finish the trip. That's why Team Gretzky chartered the plane, just in case an agreement is reached to end the owners' lockout, which enters its 63rd day today.

"We've spent the extra money to make sure that we can come home immediately if we have to," Gretzky said. "We want to play over there, but if the lockout ends, we'll return home immediately."

But what are the chances of that happening?

"It's 50-50; it could go either way right now," said Gretzky, who is nevertheless confident that hockey will be played this season. "I'm not exactly sure when it'll be settled, but I believe we'll be playing hockey in January."

Gretzky's buddy and right winger Brett Hull guaranteed it.

"I think we're going to be playing the first of the year," Hull said. "The owners aren't going to let this slip away. They like the cash too much."

If the owners canceled the season, they would forfeit about $770 million in revenue, while withholding $440 million from the players in salaries and bonuses.

But if worse comes to worst, and the negotiations bog down to the point that the season is canceled, the National Hockey League Players' Association has contingency plans. The Team Gretzky tour might be the sign of things to come.

"If there's no hockey this year, I think you would see an elaborate plan unfold, owned and orchestrated by the players association," said Mike Barnett, Gretzky's and Hull's agent. …

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