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Pain of Playoffs Is Forgotten by Gretzky


BLUE JAY, Calif. — Maybe the whole Wayne Gretzky episode, when he was hinting at retirement, never happened.

It certainly seemed that way Saturday after his first full practice at training camp at Ice Castle Arena. The tired, anguished Gretzky after the Kings' loss to Montreal in the Stanley Cup finals was long gone, replaced by a smiling, upbeat Gretzky.

He explained his decision to return.

"The biggest reason is because we have a chance to win," Gretzky said. "I believe this group can. My decision would have been a lot different if I didn't feel that way. . . . And I thought I owed it to Mr. (Bruce) McNall."

The Kings have surrounded Gretzky with a mix of important veterans (Dave Taylor, Pat Conacher) as well as younger players (Warren Rychel, Gary Shuchuk). And the most notable player to leave, defenseman Marty McSorley, was traded for a young, swift center, Shawn McEachern.

"He (McSorley) should be proud of what he has accomplished," Gretzky said. "When I first met him, he couldn't skate. I wish him the best. One guy can't fill his spot. He'll be hard to replace."

King Notes

Defenseman Brent Thompson, who had abdominal surgery during the summer, was ready to report to camp, but team doctors decided he should wait another week as a precaution. . . . Defensemen Rob Blake and Darryl Sydor and forward Tomas Sandstrom all said they intend to play out their options. Both Tony Granato and Mike Donnelly said they want to avoid playing out their options and continue to negotiate new contracts.

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