Random Scribbles · writing

Breakfast of Champions


You’ve never seen Oscar Gretzky’s picture on a box of Wheaties and you probably never will. I’m gonna tell you why.

Oscar didn’t choose Hockey. Hockey chose him. Maybe it ran in the family, his cousin Wayne, who lived up north, was a pretty good player too but not as good as Oscar. Oscar was a natural forward, with a blistering right hand shot, puck handling skills that confounded his opponents, and he could fly when he strapped on skates.

He had his first 50 goal season at the age of eight. In fact he notched up 109 points that year. Not too bad for a kid growing up in the high deserts of the American Southwest. That summer; representatives from Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary and Fargo visited his small town and tried to convince his parents to move so that he could play for their teams. The family was having none of it though and he continued to play for the Jackalopes. He just got better too.

When he was ten he took up smoking because it made him look cool. In those days smoking was still cool. You saw it in the movies and on TV. It was something grownups did and it was not expensive. A pack of Lucky Strikes could be purchased for a quarter at the local ‘Food Corral’.

I don’t think Food Corrals exist anymore, but they were like a Circle K or a 7-11. Convenience stores would be the label we would put on them now.

For about two years, Oscar successfully hid his habit from his parents but not from his peers (what’s the point of looking cool if nobody sees you looking cool?). Then his mother saw him looking cool when she came to pick him up from practice one night. Oscar Gretzky was well and truly busted and he heard about it all the way home. They lived about 45 minutes drive from the rink so he heard about it a lot. As she yelled, she lit one cigarette from the butt of the last and puffed furiously all while lecturing him and schooling him on the reasons a boy of his age should not smoke.

When they got home she told his Dad and that was the end of a promising hockey career. That was his punishment. They took away the one thing that he truly loved and was good at. It embittered him and he continued to smoke but now he smoked at home too. There was no reason to hide it anymore and his logic ran along the lines of: if you’ve already gotten in trouble for stealing cookies from the cookie jar, you might as well keep eating them.

Oscar’s cousin Wayne had a pretty good career in the NHL

Oscar lives in a double-wide outside Barstow. He ex-wife has moved back in and there’s a lot of yelling coming from that end of the trailer park.

There’s probably a moral to this story but, for the life of me, I can’t figure out what it might be.