All the record books say that Wayne Gretzky scored 62 goals and 183 points in the 1986-87 season. Not in my record books though. My unofficial stats have The Great One equalling that production during the Christmas school break alone.
Of course, Jari Kurri scored more goals, because I had to pad Gretzky’s assists totals for realism. I had to put Dave Hunter on the left wing rather Mark Messier or Esa Tikkanen. The gears on the left winger of the new table hockey game I got for Christmas in 1987 never did work that well, so the stats I could produce were generously more suitable for a grinder like Hunter than Messier.
It was the perfect Christmas gift. I remember it being for both my brother and myself, but everyone knew it was for me. He never obsessed about the game where miniature players try to put a miniature puck into a miniature net, at least not to the same degree.
I, on the other hand, quickly mastered the game. I was dominant on the right side, where I imagined Gretzky repositioned himself after the faceoff. I could place pin-point passes from the right winger to the slot or either pointman for perfect one timers. I even managed to do the odd saucer pass to the center for a highlight reel goal.
No neutral zone trap could stop my plastic warriors. I think that was because my players never strayed from their positions. Like the real-life Oilers often my goalie (usually Grant Fuhr) and defensemen (always Paul Coffey and Charlie Huddy) were left to defend my zone on their own. My forwards, even the usually conscientious Hunter, were more likely to be cherry picking than back checking. I must admit that Gretzky was often offside on many of the goals, but there were no linesmen anyways.
Never able to skate seriously, this was my way of living NHL dreams. It became an obsession. I would practice by myself for hours on end, only because it wasn’t long before no one would want to play with me. I was too good, and if I was beaten (usually because I put the puck in my own net from a vigorous faceoff win) I was not a lot of fun to be around. I took the game way too seriously. I even kept detailed statistics on scraps of paper that cluttered the table in a pile only I could consider organized.
The game even included a miniature Stanley Cup – the only piece of the game that I still have today. I found Lord Stanley’s mini Cup the other day to remind of these days of innocence. I became curious if others still shared this passion nowadays. I knew the games were still sold in stores, but surely the old game of rods and gears has taken a back seat to the incredible video games nowadays.
I wrote this story a couple of years back. It continues on to look at some pretty serious levels of table top hockey gaming. Click here for the full story.
And speaking of Table Top Hockey, here's a link back to 1981 when a 21 year old Wayne Gretzky plays Table Top Hockey against Tommy Banks. Oh, and he talks about the Oilers, his superstitions and his love of soap operas.