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Lord of the Rink

After 18 seasons in the NHL, Wayne Gretzky still plays hockey with passion and drive.
Ken Shouler
From the Print Edition:
Wayne Gretzky, Mar/Apr 97

(continued from page 4)

"Now it's a little more compact; it teaches them how to live and work with each other more in this environment. In California it was a lot tougher driving them to school, because you travel more in L.A. [In New York] I'm able to spend more time in taking them to school, picking them up and that sort of thing."

Being just one star among many, Gretzky once said that he could get lost in Los Angeles. "In New York, it's totally different. But I really do enjoy living here. I like the energy. Before I came to New York, people said, 'You can't go there, people are crazy. Are you foolish? What are you thinking about going there for?' I've honestly found it to be the exact opposite. I really enjoy the people; they can't be nicer. People on the streets are very polite. They're sports fans and they wanna talk. And that's okay. I don't mind talking sports. I'm a big fan myself. Unless I've gotta go somewhere or do something, I don't mind. People know who I am and sometimes stop and say, 'How you doin'?' and want to talk and want an autograph."

His family is adapting to the New York life. "We do a little bit of everything. We went to the World Series, go to the movies. Since we moved we're trying to reorganize our lives and get situated. It's kind of a hectic time, organizing the apartment and getting the kids in schools and then getting them involved in activities from piano to ice hockey. My daughter's on the swim team. She's been swimming for a couple of years and she's the most competitive. She has mine and Janet's competitive level."

For Jones, relocating to Manhattan has its advantages. "I'm more involved with the kids being in New York," she says. "I'm walking them here and I'm taking them there. And I think it's good right now, because the adjustment is so different than an L.A. life that it's important that I'm there for them. So Wayne is with the Rangers and the kids are in school and I'll be the third wheel to get my life in order. But it's important that they get settled first."

While the family is getting acclimated, Jones, who once graced the cover of Life magazine, is trying to get back in the swing of things as an actress. Though she grew up in St. Louis, the trip back to New York is a bit of a return home: she did A Chorus Line and The Flamingo Kid in the city. But with a family to look after, "I haven't really gotten my routine together yet. But it will come," she says. "I'd love to break back into the business somehow. No one really knows I want it; I have to get back out there."

Jones has been away from acting for eight years, since her first child was born. "I think once you've done it," she says, "you always get that feeling to go back out. It's hard to let go. Being in New York or Los Angeles makes you feel like it's in your back yard and that you should be involved, and you feel like you're left out of the party if you're not working." Whether she makes her comeback on screen or stage or TV makes no difference to her. "Of course, everyone wants to be on the screen, but sometimes it's more important to try to be on the stage or TV."

While it was hard to give up her career, the rewards were substantial. "The kids have been great," says Jones. "But I think they would have fun watching me work, too. Wayne would love for me to work; a lot of people think that he wouldn't, but he really would."

Jones' transition to New York has been eased by Gretzky's connection to sports. "I love sports, I love athletes," says the actress, who has dabbled in aerobics and kick boxing. "I always felt that I would have been a better athlete than an actress or a dancer. Because I have that mentality; I like being around it, and I love it, I respect it." Sports, in fact, was responsible for bringing her and Wayne together; they began dating after a 1987 National Basketball Association playoff game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.

Will Gretzky steer his kids toward hockey? "Both my wife and I think that sports are good for kids for a lot of things--having fun with other kids, if they're busy doing sports it means they're staying out of trouble. We're kind of big believers in athletics for kids. But I really have to be careful, especially with my first son, Ty; I didn't want him to think that I would ever pressure him into being a hockey player.

"I was telling my wife the other day about when I was six how much of a passion I had for the game. I would design an ice rink on a page. I was six years old and I would sit down in front of the TV with a pen and I'd watch the puck on TV and I'd follow the puck for the whole period. And when there was a whistle I'd stop. And my dad would say, 'What are you doin'?' And I said, 'I'm following the puck.' I just wanted to see who's got the puck more, where all the play is, where all the action is. At the end of the period, you would see heavy lines in one certain area, or maybe on one end if a team is dominating. I was telling my wife, 'I don't know why I did it.' " No wonder, then, that his father saw his greatness coming before Wayne did. "He knew," says Gretzky. "He said, 'I don't know why or how you have this passion, but if you don't lose your love for the game, you'll be something special. You have this passion for the game and you'll go far.'

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