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Is that really No. 99?

Peter McNab, the Colorado Avalanche's TV commentator, was reminiscing this week about seeing the baby-faced Wayne Gretzky for the first time when his Boston

Bruins came to Edmonton in 1979.

"A bunch of us were arguing in the dressing room about Wayne, wondering if the kid we'd seen was really the team mascot," said McNab.

"We saw this kid wearing No. 99 and we all said, 'That's Gretzky! Nah, no way.' Somebody else said, 'It must be some kid who'd won a contest to be on the ice with the Oilers.' Then, at the end of the first

period, we're all looking at one another in the dressing room and going 'Oooh.'

"I'll never forget people saying

Stevie Kasper did a great job checking Wayne over the years, but you know how he got the job? We had seniority. He was the young guy on our team and we all said, 'He's all yours, Stevie. We're not going out there against Wayne and being

minus-10 when the night's over."

Coffey still in top shape

Former Oilers all-star defenceman Paul Coffey had the time of his life playing in the charity hockey game featuring Team World against Team USSR in Moscow's Red Square. The game honoured the 60th anniversary of the birth of Russian hockey and the 50th anniversary of the former Soviet Union's first victory.

Coffey and the other NHLers on the team coached by Scotty Bowman also got a private tour of the Kremlin. It was unseasonably warm, but it was a howling success.

Coffey, who just bought his second Toyota dealership, had a field day on the larger ice surface.

"I rented a rink back home, so I could skate.

"I wanted to be in shape. The last thing you want at something like that is to be huffing and puffing and just hoping the game ends."

All-star shenanigans

One of the ads to get people to get Rory Fitzpatrick's name on the all-star ballot is on YouTube. It's a play on a story about the wonderful skating style of Scott Niedermayer, the Anaheim Ducks all-star blue-liner.

"Do you really want to see the

effortless Scott Niedermayer in the game, or a more hard-working choice?" the ad asks.

OK, it would be nice if Fitzpatrick, a member of the Vancouver Canucks blue-line corps, mustered a point before the balloting ended on Jan. 2. The online campaign has done wonders for Fitzpatrick, who's averaging the sixth-most minutes (15:21) on Vancouver's blue-line.

"The Internet is a crazy thing," said Chris Pronger, Niedermayer's teammate, alluding to online rumours about leaving Edmonton last June.

Fitzpatrick is second to Niedermayer but is 1,500 votes up on

No. 3 defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom, the four-time Norris Trophy winner from the Detroit Red Wings.

Lidstrom has gotten a charge out of the Fitzpatrick campaign. "I think it's kind of funny," he said.

This 'n' that

If Gretzky ever steps aside as coach in Phoenix, his first call will almost surely go to good friend Pat Quinn, who's coaching Canada's Spengler Cup team during the Christmas break in Switzerland ... Chicago Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon denied the Blackhawks are trying to reacquire Kyle Calder from the Philadelphia

Flyers. Not when he has about

$1.5 million US left on his contract and has just one goal this season.
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