One Last Time
Being that I never got to have my final wrestling match perhaps I can appreciate in a unique way what could possibly be more exciting for Wayne Gretzky than coming back to perform with all his old team mates at a Mega-stars Alumni Game as part of the Heritage Classic. There’s an overpowering sense of pride and excitement filling my heart in anticipation of this once in a life time event, the long awaited climax of a year of celebration commemorating the Oilers twenty five seasons in the NHL and marking the NHL’s 86th anniversary.
It will be the first - and only - time that any of Gretzky’s kids will see him in an Oilers jersey as they were not born yet when he was traded to Los Angels in 1988. He’ll lead a team of Oilers alumni against Guy Lafleur and Canadiens alumni and says that at forty two this will be the only old timers game for him.
Don’t let anyone tell you that it won’t be a thrill, even for The Great One, to play a game with legendary rivals who can’t wait to do the same! I can imagine that Wayne will get a rush of adrenaline as he laces up his skates and looks over at Mark Messier asking himself is this really happening? The joy of it being in Edmonton, where he set the hockey world on fire like no other, can’t be lost either. I can attest to the fact that Edmonton sports fans are among the loudest and most loyal ... and they deserve this event. With a stadium full of exuberant fans cheering over a backdrop of live music and fireworks, it’s inescapable that a flood of memories will wash over Gretzky, including those outdoor games as a kid when Walter schooled him much the same as my father schooled me in wrestling.
I can’t help but wonder what could have been for me. Maybe a super show for charity at the tiny Pavilion or the Saddledome. One last rematch, possibly teamed with some of my brothers , against old Stampede greats like Archie The Stomper, Sweet Daddy Siki or even Abdullah The Butcher. Even if some of us are too old and rolly polly it would still be a blast!
I remember my dad, in his sixties, standing on the ring apron as my tag partner when we teamed up against Stomper and J.R. Foley. For me, those dreams are gone forever and it might sound crazy but it’s not my battle back from a stroke that makes it impossible, it’s only because Bill Goldberg nearly kicked my head off my shoulders. That one mule kick is the sole reason that I’ll never be able to come back and have classic dream matches with the likes of Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit or Brock Lesner. Then again, I’m just happy to be alive and I don’t dwell on these things much any more.
I have a good idea what it will be like for the hockey legends who take the ice today in front of 58,000 elated fans. It makes me think wistfully back to when The British Bulldog and I showcased Stampede style wrestling for the world to see in front of 86,000 at Wembley Stadium in ‘92. I’m excited about the game. I’m proud to be a Canadian hockey fan.
And I say with all due respect and admiration, I envy you this moment, Wayne Gretzky! That you were able to choose your time and get out in one piece and can still come back from time to time and do what you love and what everyone loves you to do.