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Robitaille Is No Surprise to Gretzky

February 09, 1988|JERRY CROWE

ST. LOUIS — Until last season, Luc Robitaille played in Hull, Canada, for a junior team that is owned by a young entrepreneur named Wayne Gretzky.

Tonight, the Kings' 21-year-old left winger will start alongside his idol and former boss in the National Hockey League All-Star game.

"That's going to be a thrill," Robitaille said. "Gretzky was my favorite player. I used to watch him on TV whenever I could. I'd see him and say, 'Wow, this guy's great.' Gretzky is very special to me.

"For sure, I'll be nervous."

And what does The Great One remember about Robitaille, who played at Hull for three seasons?

"He was a tremendous player, as simple as that," Gretzky said. "The first time I saw him play, I said, 'This guy is going to play in the NHL.' But everybody said, 'We're not sure about his skating and his size.' "

Robitaille was the Kings' ninth-round pick in the 1984 draft.

"I can't believe a guy like that gets drafted in the (ninth) round," Gretzky said. "It boggles my mind. Not to be critical of the Kings, but when you're picking in the 8th, 9th and 10th rounds, I believe most teams are just guessing.

"They were a little lucky in that they drafted him. I don't think they drafted him that low and said, 'He's going to be a 50-goal man.' "

Once upon a time, Gretzky heard the same complaints about his own lack of size and skating ability.

Said he: "Maybe that's why I get mad when I hear those things said."

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