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Andy Juniper Headshot

The Invincible House of Gretzky

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True story. Early one morning as my wife was signing-in at a corporate golf tournament, a charming and magnetic man sidled up to her and, with a playful twinkle in his eyes, he smiled mischievously and told her that he loved her.

But wait, there's more.

Apparently my wife returned the sly smile, told the man that she likewise loved him, and then flitted off to find her foursome. Oh, and later on she insisted that she had no notion whatsoever who the guy was to whom she had professed her love.

Honestly, I'm not sure that not knowing this man is even within the realm of possibility given where my wife resides (Canada) and considering her nationality (Canadian). In her defense, she has an infamous history of not knowing famous people, particularly those whose fame emanates from athletic arenas. She once came home from a charity event with a photograph of her arm-in-arm with "some retired hockey guy".

"That's not just some retired hockey guy,'" I gasped upon seeing the photo. "That's Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe." (How I ended up with a woman who wouldn't know Mr. Hockey from Mr. Coffee, the late-great Joe DiMaggio, is another story altogether.)

Anyway, a short while after exchanging early morning undying confessions of deep and profound love with a man she purportedly did not know, my wife was standing in the clubhouse with a friend awaiting their tee-off time, when she spotted Mr. Twinkle In His Eyes. My wife elbowed her friend, and whispered: "That's him, that's the man I was telling you about." To which her friend exclaimed:

"Are you kidding me, that's Walter Gretzky. You know... Wayne's dad!" Janet's father-in-law. Paulina's grandfather. Patriarch of the proud and accomplished Gretzky clan. Yes, we all know -- or, at least 99.87 per cent of us know -- exactly who Walter Gretzky is. Granted, prior to that morning I had no notion that he was the guy who was in love with my wife, even though they'd never met.

Alas, it should not have surprised me.

The Gretzkys and the Junipers, you see, have a long, emotional and tortuously entwined history. I mean, Wayne and I were once very, very close -- damn near 'besties', damn near approaching the point in our relationship where we would surely have been exchanging jewelry on major holidays. Doubters may say that I'm delusional and note that I'd only met the Looney For Luck Guy, the Canadian Ice Icon once, for 20 minutes, when I interviewed him between courses of a dinner on the Rubber Chicken Circuit back in I-don't-remember-when. But, doubters be damned, I know how meaningful those 20 minutes were to Wayne. I saw the look (of fondness and meaningful connection) in his baby blues. And I know what we shared. The term 'soul mates' immediately springs to mind.

Alas, our relationship took a tragic turn. We had a falling out when he failed to invite me to his wedding to starlet Janet Jones. My guess is that his 'handlers' were jealous of how tight Wayne and I had become. It was, in my mind, The Snub Of The Century. Snub (and subsequent restraining orders) aside, I still managed to maintain a fairly close relationship with The Great One without really ever actually, well, seeing him. I mean, I've eaten in his Toronto restaurant at least twice.

But now my wife and Walter may well be ready to take the whole Gretzky-Juniper relationship to a new level. I can't say for sure that she'll end up as Wayne's step-mom, or that she'll be in a position to offer some sage advice to Paulina ("Get the hell off social media, and put some clothes on, young lady -- that's not a dress, it's a headband!"), but naturally I have given considerable thought to how this will ultimately effect me.

An even closer relationship with Wayne? At the very least, a better seat at Gretzky's restaurant. Hey, a man can dream.