Just how great was the Great One? I ask in all seriousness after spending three hours listening to Kevin Smith - yes, that Kevin Smith, maker of dick-and-doodie movies like Clerks and Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back - declare his admiration, love, fealty and undying, worshipful devotion to Wayne Gretzky.
It was during Saturday night's An Evening With Kevin Smith at Roy Thomson Hall, which saw Smith tell stories and answer questions. Somehow, amid the gratuitous dick-and-doodie humour that has become his bread-and-butter, Smith related just about everything he talked about to The Great One.
He talked about how much he loves the CBC miniseries Hockey: A People's History (so effusive was Smith's affection for the series that Mother Corp. could've sold a couple hundred copies of the DVD set in the lobby afterward). He talked about watching Gretzky clips on Youtube in his hotel room before the evening's Q&A. Smith even became teary-eyed when he recalled a piece of Gretzky legend about how an atom-league-aged Wayne told his dad how he was going to help the one kid on his team who'd never scored a goal finally put one into the back of the net.
Smith answered questions with a WWWD? (that's What Would Wayne Do) philosophy and pondered the potential of building a religion around Number 99. He even likened Gretzky's story to the Last Temptation Of Christ, casting Gretzky as Jesus and Oilers owner Peter Pocklington as Judas. Pocklington had to betray Gretzky (and Oilers fans, and by extension all Canadians) by trading him to the L.A. Kings. Gretzky told him to do it, for the greater good of the sport (spreading the gospel of Gretzky to sunny California, leading to NHL expansion in warmer, typically unhockey cities).
Which got me thinking... not about starting a Gretzky cult, or whether Mark Messier was Peter, Gretzky's denier, but about why there hasn't been a Wayne Gretzky biopic. Gretzky is the greatest hockey player of all time, and if he was American, Hollywood would've jumped all over this by now.
Yes, we're reluctant to blow our own horns. We rarely give ourselves - and our heroes - their due. Pierre Trudeau, Norman Bethune, Billy Bishop, Terry Fox, Rocket Richard, they all get the TV treatment, sure. But when we're complaining about the quality of Canadian cinema, and about not telling truly Canadian stories that reflect the Canadian experience (sorry A History Of Violence, sorry Amal), here's one ready-made for the big screen.
And who doesn't love the thought of Ryan Gosling as Gretzky?