WINDSOR, Canada — As the younger brother of a hockey superstar, Keith Gretzky has been asked thousands of questions, many of them hundreds of times.
But while Wayne Gretzky continues to set National Hockey League records and leads the Edmonton Oilers to one victory after another, Keith is hearing a new question, sometimes whispered, sometimes direct:
Is the 5-foot, 9-inch, 150-pounder big enough to follow his successfull sibling into the NHL?
The 17-year-old center for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, eligible for the NHL draft this summer, handles the question with admirable aplomb and goes about his business with a professional air.
"There's not much I can do about it except go out, play my game and let the scouts make their decision," Keith Gretzky said. "And even then, what happens depends so much on your teammate because nobody can do it alone."
Questions concerning size were also asked about the taller but spindly Wayne a few years ago. He, of course, has answered the doubters with his performance.
"Wayne and I don't play a power game, we play a finesse game," Keith said patiently. "And you don't have to be a giant to play that way."
The younger Gretzky pointed out the he held his own a few months ago while playing for a group of Canadian Olympic hopefuls against the Moscow Dynamo.
"Most of those Russians were as big as NHL players and I thought I played fairly well," Keith Gretzky said.
"He's a natural point-getter and those kinds of players are hard to find," Detroit Red Wings scout Billy Dea said. "Maybe you can knock his size but you'd have to do an awful lot of soul-searching because he looks like the kind of player who would come back and haunt you.
"Beyond talent, which he has in abundance, one question about Keith is whether or not he's mean enough to handle the abuse that'll come his way."
Dea isn't talking about the normal abuse any talented player gets but the kind Gretzky can expect to face because of his name and size.