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  • Writer's pictureFred

Wayne Gretzky's Cleveland Hockey Highlights

You know how many career regular season NHL goals Wayne Gretzky had in Cleveland, Ohio?


ZERO.


Then how does Gretzky have Cleveland highlights?


When I was a young man I remember vividly the Gretzky-led L.A. Kings coming to town. According to the CSHL History website, on September 15, 1989, the Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins played a nearly sold out exhibition game at the now non-existent Richfield Coliseum.


I remember Wayne Gretzky setting up a picture-perfect goal, but he didn't score any goals. If I recall correctly, his line was one shot, two assists, and one period played. I don't even think he finished out the first period.


One month later, Gretzky would become the leading scorer in NHL history.


But the stats to the Kings/Penguins Exhibition game don't exist. I don't know Wayne Gretzky, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say he probably wasn't excited to play an exhibition game in Cleveland. In September.


The Kings barely played any home exhibition games in the Gretzky Era. They barnstormed non-NHL cities to showcase Gretzky at every turn. He always thought of himself as an Ambassador of the Sport. And though I can't prove it, because a lot of those NHL Exhibition games are lost to time, I am going to speculate that he had a bunch of those One Period nights to satisfy the fans.

Nights when most veterans usually wouldn't play at all.


What do Wayne Gretzky Exhibition games have to do with 2024?


Within minutes of signing with Inter Miami last summer, we noted that Lionel Messi needed to play a near flawless second half of the season in order for Miami to make the MLS playoffs. Down the stretch, Messi missed a number of games due to the dreaded 'tightness and soreness.'


Not only did Miami miss the playoffs, but they lost the U.S. Cup when Messi missed the game due to "leg issues." Now by the end of 2023, what was happening to Messi appeared to be what happens in the NBA, and that's Load Management.


Veterans in the NBA all agree that the season is too long but won't alter the collective bargaining agreement so they don't have to play so much. (The issue? Less games means less money.) Many vets want to play about 65 games, but get paid for 82. The problem became so prevalent in the NBA, the league had to install guidelines so the practice wouldn't get any worse.


Most teams want their stars to play home games as not to upset their own fans, but would ultimately upset fans in places like Minneapolis or Salt Lake City who often missed seeing league superstars that were sitting on the bench during road trips, especially on back-to-back nights.


But going back to Messi, Inter Miami aggressively scheduled a world-wide exhibition season, while trying to manage Messi's minutes. The issue came to a head last week when he sat out an exhibition in Taiwan due to a "sore adductor." When fans pay money to see players, instead of teams, they are understandably angry when their player doesn't show up on the field. That game in Taiwan? That may be the only time Messi plays in that country in his career. They did not pay money to see an average MLS team.


How many times did Wayne Gretzky play in Cleveland? On the record, I found 2 games, but I am almost positive it was 3. They were all exhibition games. The argument about exhibition games outside of the regular season of a sport have been debated for a 100 years in some form or fashion. In 1921, Babe Ruth tried to cash in on barnstorming, not for the New York Yankees, but to make more money for Babe Ruth.


Today boxers, track athletes, and MMA'ers all participate in exhibitions outside of their leagues to make money for themselves. But in most team sports, athletes cannot make money outside of their team contracts.


Soccer superstar Kylian Mbappe, just last month, warned that professional soccer players are playing too much soccer and were going to have to move to an NBA-style model of load management. His comments were not well received.


Fans want to see the best players in the world, the best players in the world are tired.


I like Lionel Messi, he's one of my favorite soccer players in the world. But he is taking a nasty PR hit for a team that shouldn't be trying to over-extend him. At 36, Miami should have announced Messi wasn't playing ANY exhibition games. Yet I would argue if Messi wanted to play less, maybe he should have signed for the $30 million a year Barcelona was offering instead of the $60 million a year Miami ended up paying.


To his credit though, Messi did turn down $500 million a year to play in Saudi Arabia.


The Miami deal was the best one to turn Messi into the number one global athlete brand in the world. That's basically how he won his 8th Ballon D'or over Erling Haaland, who had a better year on the pitch.




 

Young Fred loved soccer. This whole story is offensive to him.


At 19, I was working full-time, going to school full-time, and playing amateur indoor soccer on Sunday nights. If an indoor soccer team would have offered me $20,000 a year, I would have quit school AND work and joined the MISL.


But trust me, I wasn't good enough. I knew it then, I know it now. But I remember games where I played until I nearly puked, then other short handed teams after our games would ask me to play and I would stupidly say "yes."


I wish I could have made a career out of indoor soccer, I really do. Could I have played a 100 indoor soccer games a year? Easily, if it was my full-time job.

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