Wayne Gretzky dishes on Alex Ovechkin, the scoring record

Wayne Gretzky, former National Hockey League player, speaks during the Rancho Mirage Speaker Series at The Show in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023.

After Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988, the organization went to great lengths to promote ice hockey, which was not popular in Southern California. Gretzky recalled Monday how the sport felt like an afterthought in and around Los Angeles at the time.

But after a few years, Gretzky said, the Kings had ignited an excitement for the game in parts of Southern California, and beyond, with regular trips to the NHL playoffs and eventually a trip to the Stanley Cup final in 1993.

Gretzky, the NHL’s all-time leading scorer, said that when he arrived in Los Angeles, there were four high school hockey teams around the city. By 1992, there were 134.

On Monday, in a sit-down discussion moderated by “Hockey Night in Canada” personality Christine Simpson, Gretzky recalled a time when he and his wife, Janet, were driving by some tennis courts in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Van Nuys. The two had just been married and Gretzky had just been traded to the Kings.

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