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Concussion Knocks Gretzky From Game

March 4, 1996

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) _ Wayne Gretzky, playing just his second game with the St. Louis Blues, was elbowed in the head and sustained a minor concussion Sunday, leaving the ice clinging to the shoulders of his new teammates.

He probably will return to St. Louis for further tests, and it was not immediately clear how long hockey’s scoring king would be sidelined. Mike Keenan, the coach and general manager, said he hoped Gretzky would return ``soon.″

``He was out cold,″ Keenan said. ``There’s no question about it. He was pretty groggy when we came in at the end of the period. ... He looks better to me now.″

No medical personnel confirmed that the 35-year-old center was unconscious. St. Louis trainers reported before the end of the game that Gretzky had a severe headache.

The elbow came at 6:33 of the second period during the Blues’ 4-3 victory over Edmonton. Kelly Buchberger, Gretzky’s former teammate and current Oilers captain, caught the willowy superstar on the right side of the face on the Edmonton blueline.

Gretzky’s head snapped sideways. He crumpled to the ice, where he lay motionless for several minutes, silencing the sellout crowd of 16,400 at the Edmonton Coliseum, which had given their former idol a warm reception during opening ceremonies.

Gretzky left the ice on his feet after being hoisted by two teammates. Oilers forward Glenn Anderson, a former teammate on Edmonton’s champion teams, said he was worried when he saw Gretzky lying face down.

``He’s done so many great things for the game,″ he said. ``You want to make sure every thing’s all right with him.″

Neither referee Mick McGeough nor linesman Mike Cvik penalized Buchberger, but St. Louis defenseman Murray Baron immediately goaded the grinding forward into a fight.

Keenan called the elbow on Gretzky a ``cheap shot″ and said he planned to send a videotape of the hit to Bryan Lewis, the league’s director of officiating. He said Buchberger should be disciplined.

Buchberger claimed he never intended to hurt Gretzky, but merely raised and folded his arm as the two players met.

``I would never try to hurt him, that’s for sure,″ he said. ``I just watched the replay and I just got him with the shoulder and the forearm.″

Buchberger said he didn’t think he should be suspended, but would accept whatever discipline he received.

Gretzky was acquired last Tuesday from Los Angeles for three young players and two draft choices. A prolonged absence would pose a huge question for the Blues as the playoffs approach.

``Of course that means the ultimate in terms of our franchise and club,″ Keenan said. ``Hopefully, he’ll be back soon.″

Gretzky is rarely injured _ some say because of an unwritten rule in the league that finesse players are off limits for rough play. He did miss the first 39 games of the 1992-93 season with a herniated disc after being checked him from behind during the 1991 Canada Cup.

Gretzky had played just one game with the Blues since being traded from the Kings. He scored in a 2-2 tie with Vancouver on Thursday and set up another by Al MacInnis in the first period of the game against Edmonton.

Gretzky’s return as a Blue has created a stir in Edmonton, where he led the Oilers to four Stanley Cups in the late 1980s. A last-minute rush to the box office lifted the struggling club to a sellout for the third straight game.

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