NHL Winter Classic 2012: 5 Reasons Wayne Gretzky Must Play in Alumni Game

Isaac SmithAnalyst IDecember 30, 2011

NHL Winter Classic 2012: 5 Reasons Wayne Gretzky Must Play in Alumni Game

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    The 2012 NHL Winter Classic continues to generate excitement among hockey fans.

    The Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers feature two of the premiere teams in the NHL.

    New York sits in first in the Atlantic Division, and Philidelphia is a close second, trailing the Rangers by only two points.

    Obviously, this game is about more than having a fun time outdoors, but the extracurricular events like the Alumni game will be a big draw for older hockey fans as well.

    For the Flyers, stars like Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Reggie Leach and Mark Howe highlight an older generation of Flyers fans, while players like John LeClair, Jeremy Roenick, Eric Lindros, Mark Recchi and Eric Desjardins highlight the more recent generation of Flyers.

    The Rangers lineup features Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, Glenn Anderson and Mathieu Schneider, amongst others.

    Mark Messier wants to participate, but he is questionable due to shoulder surgery earlier in December.

    Now, these are all top players of their time, but the best player of all-time will not be in this game.

    Wayne Gretzky played his last three full seasons wearing the Rangers jersey, and somehow, he has found a way to escape playing in this event.

    So Wayne, if you happen to stumble upon this article, here are five reasons you should show up and play in the Alumni game on Dec. 31.

1. The Great One Would Bring More to Watch Game on Television

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    Needless to say, Gretzky is the greatest of all time as far as hockey goes.

    His scoring records still stand, and they would be essentially pointless to go through.

    The thing that separates Gretzky from other great players is the way that he handled himself professionally throughout his career both on and off the ice.

    This professionalism, combined with Gretzky's dominance on the ice, helped advance the game of hockey in the United States well beyond what any other hockey player could have done.

    Gretzky played in the Heritage Classic back in 2003 on the Edmonton Oilers Alumni squad, but as this 2012 Winter Classic would have far more hockey fans in the United States tuning in to catch the game, having Gretzky play would be an additional draw for television ratings.

2. The Messier Connection

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    The Great One frequently played with Mark Messier during the 10 seasons that the two of them spent with the Oilers.

    The pair also played together in 1997 on the New York Rangers.

    Playing with Messier would be only natural as far as Gretzky is concerned, and it would be a treat to see despite the fact that they are both 50 years old and no longer in their youthful prime.

    The Flyers alumni line up looks pretty stacked as it is now, and a Gretzky and Messier combo would do a lot to counter the Flyers' top lines.

3. Bad Blood with the Broad Street Bullies

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    Wayne Gretzky never won a cup with the Rangers, winning all four with the Oilers.

    But Gretzky's Rangers were eliminated in the 1997 playoffs by the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

    Think Gretzky would have liked one more chance at the Cup if he could go back in time to that season?

    You bet.

    Obviously, this game is not for hockey's holy grail, but the chance to exact a little bit of revenge in an alumni game would do Gretzky well, as we all know how competitive of a individual he was as a player.

4. For the Love of the Game

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    Gretzky obviously loves playing the game more than coaching it (see the above picture and his exploits with the Phoenix Coyotes).

    It is clear that he loves playing the game that he dominated with the Heritage Classic in 2003.

    The bigger question rests on whether he would lace them up again.

    At age 50, Gretzky may have lost a step, but he hasn't lost that much of a step.

    Come on, Wayne, you owe it to yourself.

5. He's Still the Greatest of All Time

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    Whether he's 18, 50 or 100 years of age, Gretzky will still be hockey's best.

    His 894 goals and 1963 assists are records that will likely never be broken (especially with the Crosby concussion).

    The game has become more defensive, players are more skilled and players are using higher quality equipment than they were in Gretzky's day.

    Gretzky should simply come out just because he is the best and will be recognized by hockey fans young and old.

    His No. 99 is retired by every team in the league, whether formally or informally, and he will be the only one who will use it again.

    From all of us NHL fans, come out and play, Mr. Gretzky!


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