Did you have that Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull hand-held game when you were a kid? I did and played it until my thumbs had blisters.
I loved this game so much that in early 1996, when I was seven-years-old, I made this journal entry.
Ignoring the fact that I spelled it “Gretzey,” or that my fingers made me look like an orange Halloween witch, my teacher Mr. Coady still wrote “Great picture, Steven!” and gave me a ladybug sticker.
Twenty years later, Wayne Gretzky is making his rounds in Toronto during the World Cup of Hockey. He’s the NHL’s Centennial season ambassador and is telling hilarious stories about not getting recognized at the Hockey Hall of Fame (of all places).
I was asked if I would like to meet Gretzky at a Canadian Tire event, where he was greeting fans who won a Canadian Tire contest. Who the heck says no to Gretzky?
I told my mom, who still has my elementary school journals for some reason, and she sent me a picture of the journal I made about the Gretzky video game. Almost like it was fate, someone working with Canadian Tire printed off my photo. Not just any someone: My classmate Kaleigh from Mr. Coady’s Grade 2 class.
There was only one thing left to do.
The Great One was pretty great, especially considering he was at least 12 hours into a long day. My question is why did he write “Great Job” on my journal? Was he being sarcastic? Did he think my non-existent child drew it? Was it some kind of word play because he’s The Great One? Who cares. He signed it!
Life has been surreal lately. This wasn’t the first time my mom had sent me a journal entry from 1996. These next two were from September 1996 at the beginning of Grade 3.
My penmanship has gone downhill since but my spelling has improved a tiny bit.
What struck me about this entry is how excited I was for the World Cup of Hockey back then. I’ve thought about that tournament many times over the years, mostly the amazing performance of Team USA goalie Mike Richter, but I had forgotten that it was the World Cup of Hockey. The first tournament was in 1996, then not again for another eight years until 2004, and now twelve years later in 2016.
If I forgot about it then that means my childhood excitement for the World Cup of Hockey died. The lesson there for the NHL regarding the World Cup of Hockey is this: Do it or don’t.
Everyone is already judging the success or failure of the World Cup. On one hand, so many games have gone head-to-head with the playoff-chasing Blue Jays. Anyone who lives in Toronto or the GTA knows it’s basically impossible to compete with that right now. On the other hand, if the World Cup of Hockey is ever going to maintain interest, if it’s ever going to command legitimacy even close to the Olympics, you have to hold this tournament and you have to have it on a regular schedule. Whether it’s every year, every two years, or every four — pick one.
The World Cup of Hockey, really the growth of hockey in general, is bigger than dollars and sense. We’ve ripped on the Coyotes for years, and we’ve had many reasons to pick on them, but it’s pretty amazing that the first overall pick in the NHL this past summer was born in California and raised in Arizona.
If you want to get into the journals of seven-year-old hockey fans, and into the wallets, heart, or minds of hockey fans, the World Cup of Hockey can’t end in 2016.