Sunday, March 22, 2009

Wayne Gretzky WHA All-Star

Wayne Gretzky was the leading scorer in every international tournament he played in from 1978 through 1991. This encompasses the ’78 World Juniors, four Canada Cups, the 1982 World Champinonships and Rendezvous ’87. Over these 49 games, he scored 31 goals and 61 assists for 92 points.
One other somewhat forgotten international series he lead in scoring took place during his sole year in the WHA, Gretzky played in a three game All-Star series against the Soviets which consisted mainly of Moscow Dynamo. The series took place at Edmonton’s Coliseum and attracted over 35,000 spectators. Pictured below is the program from that series, one of the gems of my collection.
Gretzky was 17 years old and was chosen as the fifth Centre on the WHA squad behind Robbie Ftorek, Serge Bernier, Dave Keon and Peter Sullivan. In fact, the Great One had a mortal 34 points in 32 games to that point in the season after being rescued from Indianapolis. He would use his experience playing with Gordie and Mark Howe among other stars, as the launch pad to a fantastic second half. He tallied 76 points in the final 48 games, more than anyone else in the loop. Only Real Cloutier was even close with 69 points while Kent Nilsson had 58, and Ftorek and Terry Ruskowki each had 55 points.
The aforementioned Howe famly formed a terrific line with Gretzky scoring 12 combined points over the three games. Gretz’s 5 points and 3 goals would lead Mark Howe and fellow teenager Mike Gartner by one. Even though they were outscored 12-7, the Soviet squad were no pushovers. They iced three veterans of the 1972 Summit Series, Viacheslav Anisin, Alexander Volchkov and Vladimir Vikulov.
The WHA goalies were Dave Dryden who played the first game, and Markus Mattsson who won the last two. Mattsson would cross paths with Gretzky just over six years later. On January 28, 1984 while with the Kings, Mattsson would be the goalie to stop Gretzky’s 51 game point scoring streak.

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