Ice Hockey: Gretzky facing a long spell on the sidelines

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

WAYNE GRETZKY, the most famous name in American ice hockey, will be out of action indefinitely because of a serious back problem - a herniated disc - but the Los Angeles Kings centre has not abandoned hope of returning to the ice.

Gretzky said that he had been suffering from an 'excruciatingly painful' upper back problem, but that the pain had subsided. The leading scorer in National Hockey League history was hospitalised last Tuesday because of chest pains caused by the injury.

Dr Robert Watkins told the news conference that Gretzky's injury was a herniated thoracic disc, which was intruding into his upper spine. He said there was no injury to the spine. Watkins said he has recommended intensive pain-killing medication for Gretzky, and that once the pain was gone he would undergo physical therapy.

'We are quite optimistic that Wayne can certainly have an excellent chance of recovery from his injury. There is the possibility that he can return this year, but there is no guarantee,' he said.

Bruce McNall, the Kings' owner, remained optimistic. 'I don't think it will be the end and I hope it isn't,' he said. 'From a franchise point of view you can't replace Wayne Gretzky, but it isn't a one-man sport. We hope to remain very competitive.

'Everyone says 'What will happen when Wayne retires?' Now we will find out, for a few months, or however long it is.'