Winter Classic: No Wayne Gretzky for Rangers; HBO ’24/7′ tease

Greg Wyshynski

There's been so much focus on the Philadelphia Flyers' side of the Winter Classic alumni game — Eric Lindros and a potential Legion of Doom reunion, the possibility of Bobby Clarke and other Bullies in the game — that the New York Rangers' roster has been somewhat overshadowed.

One anticipates that players like Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter and Adam Graves will skate for the Blueshirts. But the recent speculation had centered on a bigger name: Wayne Gretzky, who finished his career with the Rangers and had previously skated in an outdoor exhibition game at the first Heritage Classic.

The logic: That the Winter Classic would be a prime opportunity for the NHL and Gretzky to make amends after "shoddy" treatment of The Great One when his tenure with the Phoenix Coyotes ended.

Alas, there will be no Wayne Gretzky skating with Mess and taking faceoffs against Lindros at Citizens Bank Park. From Pierre LeBrun of ESPN:

The Great One told via text that he doesn't think that will be the case. "No, I'll be with my family for the holidays,'' Gretzky said. "Plus, they don't need to see a 50-year-old slow guy out there!''

We beg to disagree on that one. No. 99's appearance would be hugely popular with the fans Dec. 31 in the alumni game.  Now we'll see how much lobbying comes from the New York Rangers. Surely, Gretzky's old pal, Mark Messier, would try to entice him.

"… with an incredible amount of tears. Also, some Lays potato chips."

So no Gretzky in the alumni game, which sucks, because Marty McSorley could really use the appearance fee.

Luckily, there's this whole other outdoor game they're playing on Jan. 2 that we hear actually counts in the standings. Better still: HBO does this thing called "24/7: Road To The NHL Winter Classic" that's pretty popular. Via Crossing Broad, here's a glimpse at what the Rangers and Flyers will look like filmed in HB-O-Rama:

Featured in this clip: Both coaches; Max Talbot, Scott Hartnell and Chris Pronger for the Flyers; and … Derek Stepan for the Rangers? Did they have to hastily edit all their Avery interviews or something?