As if Staples Center wasn't already jacked for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final thanks to the Los Angeles Kings' 2-0 series lead, a very special guest dropped the ceremonial puck: Wayne Gretzky, the Kings legend who led the team to the Final in 1993 but hasn't been prominently seen around the NHL since his bitter split with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Check out The Great One dropping the puck for Dustin Brown and Zach Parise to a standing ovation … right after a huge gaffe by the Kings' PA announcer:
Said the announcer:
"His play on the ice rewrote the NHL record books, and his arrival in Los Angeles in 1998 changed the face of hockey and the NHL forever."
As any Edmonton Oilers fan will tell you, the Gretzky Trade happened on Aug. 9, 1988. He was playing for the New York Rangers in 1998, three years removed from his last season in L.A.
[Nicholas J. Cotsonika: Drew Doughty's rise has Kings in prime position]
Gaffe aside, amazing moment to see No. 99 — who did change the face of the franchise, and the course of hockey in California — drop the puck before a Kings Stanley Cup Final game. As Helene Elliott wrote last week:
Gretzky's last NHL involvement, as a part-owner and coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, ended badly when he was caught up in the bankruptcy that engulfed the team three years ago. It's no coincidence he declined interview requests during the Kings' West final series against the Phoenix Coyotes, but on Wednesday he happily reaffirmed that although he loves being a fan, he's not looking to be-come affiliated with a team or the NHL.
"Oh, no, not at all. I don't even think about it right now," said Gretzky, who plans to attend the Kings' first home Cup final game on June 4. My enjoyment is just watching a game right now, truly. I've got a lot of friends in hockey that I talk to and sort of stay in touch with and talk about the game."
Hopefully, Gretzky sticks around the Kings and the NHL. The league's better for it.
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