EDMONTON — Glen Sather accused Wayne Gretzky of trying to gain an edge for the Kings as they prepare for a National Hockey League playoff series against his Edmonton Oilers.
Sather, Oiler president, general manager and coach, said Gretzky's critical comments last weekend were an attempt "to stir the pot" before the teams meet in a Smythe Division semifinal series next week.
Though Edmonton fans have blamed Oiler owner Peter Pocklington for the trade that sent Gretzky to the Kings, Gretzky aimed his guns at Sather in an interview with the Edmonton Journal and in a taped appearance Saturday on CBS-TV.
Gretzky said Sather "had a hand" in the trade, and he did not have a good relationship with the coach when he was an Oiler. Gretzky also accused Sather of being unnecessarily critical of the team's stars.
Sather suggested it was all part of a ploy by the superstar.
"Wayne is very cunning and intelligent," Sather said.
"Why do you think he'd say these things a week before we play them in the playoffs? I can't see any reason Wayne would do this but to be disruptive."
Asked if he thought Gretzky's aim was to destroy the Oilers' morale, Sather said: "It looks that way."
"If all this talk is to upset our team, if that's why he is doing this, then I can understand that. If it's one of those whatever-it-takes-to-win things, then that's fine."
But Oiler captain Mark Messier, a close friend of Gretzky, said he doubted that was Gretzky's motive.
"There's no doubt Gretzky wants to beat us," Messier said.
"But I don't believe, after all the years he's spent with us, that he thinks he can trick or fool us."
Said Gretzky: "That's not it at all. I try to do my talking on the ice. I thought most of the things I said were common knowledge."