The trade of hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings continued to create a furor in Canada Thursday, with friends and family of Gretzky challenging Oilers' owner Peter Pocklington's version of events.
Gretzky's father Walter said Thursday he was furious over Pocklington's "foolish" remarks to the Los Angeles Times that "Wayne has an ego the size of Manhattan."In the interview, reprinted in several Canadian newspapers, Pocklington said "if people had told me how great I was day in and day out for ten years, I'm sure my ego would be a pretty generous size too" and suggested that Gretzky, who broke down at an Edmonton news conference announcing his departure, was crying crocodile tears.
"He has an ego the size of all Manhattan," Pocklington said. "And he's a great actor. I thought he pulled it off beautifully (at the press conference) when he showed how upset he was.
"I think he was upset, but he wants the big dream. I call LA the Land of the Big Trip, and he wants to go where the trips are the biggest."
Gretzky's father said Pocklington was in no position to judge Gretzky, the 27-year old captain and 10-year veteran of the Edmonton Oilers.
"I guess maybe Mr. Pocklington couldn't see overtop the pile of money," Gretzky said from his home in Brandford, Ontario. "Everyone refers to it as a trade; I say it was a sale."
Gretzky was traded Tuesday to the Los Angeles Kings with teammates Mike Krushelnyski, Marty McSorley and John Miner for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, Craig Redmond and first-round draft picks in 1989, 1991 and 1993, as well as an unspecified amount of money, believed to be $15 million.
Several Canadian newspaper columnists also criticized Pocklington Thursday, saying Gretzky did not leave Edmonton willingly.
"An understanding was reached whereby Gretzky would be sold - something Pocklington has wanted to do for a long time - but to the team of his choice," wrote columnist Al Strachan. "In return, Gretzky would say that the deal was his idea, a statement that figured to save Pocklington millions of dollars in revenues."
Strachan said that a clause in Gretzky's contract which would allow him to retire in three years made it "imperative to deal Gretzky soon if the deal was ever going to be made." He also said Pocklington needed Gretzky to say he asked to be traded to eliminate the risk of a boycott of his retail business holdings in Alberta.
Three ex-Edmonton Oilers players, Eddie Mio, Paul Coffey and Dave Lumley, have all said Gretzky did not request the trade.
Mio, Gretzky's best man at his wedding in mid-July, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview that Gretzky learned the Oilers were shopping him around, so he told Pocklington that he would prefer to be traded to Los Angeles.
Mio also said that Gretzky's wife, Los Angeles actress Janet Jones, was upset at being seen as "the Yoko Ono of the NHL."