Nov. 22, 1999

All Wayne, All the Time

I like spectator sports probably more than most women (sexist comment alert!!) but I never got into hockey. This may not sound like a big deal but in Montreal in the 60's and 70's, hockey was more than a big deal, it was life itself. I tried, but I could never figure out where the puck was, who had it, and where I was supposed to be looking.

It was nice, walking up the hill from the train station downtown to the McGill campus, to see a "Chez Dryden" banner flying there, sometime in the 70's when the illustrious Canadiens' goalie moonlighted (moonlit?) as a law student.. and it was nice to watch the national hysteria when Paul Henderson scored THAT goal for Canada against Russia in 1972 but still, I never quite got the hang of watching hockey.

So tonight is Wayne Gretzky's induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

I know Gretzky was a wonderful player and fully deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, even deserves the pass through the waiting period. Yet, he's really getting on my nerves.

First, there was the thing with his wife, which happened in his last (or second last?) playing year. Right where Janet was seated, a protective panel was inadvertently pushed in by some players, and hit her in the head. She was promptly taken off to hospital and as it turned out she wasn't badly hurt, but what did Wayne do? KEPT RIGHT ON PLAYING. Priorities, Wayne. Or if nothing else, public image!

Then there was last April when Gretzky announced he would be retiring. The media coverage of the announcement was nauseating. His speech was repeated constantly by the Canadian cable sports channel TSN. More coverage could not have been given to the second coming. Of course, that was only the beginning. The following month, when his team the NY Rangers played their final game (HIS final game!) it was another sports media feeding frenzy. And now TSN is devoting the entire evening to the induction event.

So you say, change the channel? Well, besides the fact that I enjoy sports telecasts as a way of escaping into another world where the violence is slightly more controlled, changing the channel doesn't help! For Wayne has followed the lead of another hallowed sports icon, Michael Jordan, and is doing idiotic commercials.

By far the worst of these is, the dreaded TYLENOL spot. The signing of Gretzky to the tylenol account sparked rumours that the "Great One" was afflicted with arthritis. Be that as it may, the commercial is worded ultra-vaguely on that point. The poor thing complains of "stiffness after long car trips". Duh? And happily chirps that he takes tylenol for aches and pains that MAY be symptoms of arthritis, on "doctor's orders".

What's my problem with all this? Well, Wayne Gretzky carefully cultivated a wholesome all-Canadian image and is now trading on it and in my opinion, throwing it away. We don't have many real Canadian heroes and now this one is becoming tainted. It's also one thing to shill for long distance rates and basketball shoes, but using your undeniable influence to recommend medicines is going too far.

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