BY ANDY BAGGOT
Corbin McGuire remembers the moment, but was too young to fully appreciate it.
He was 5 the first time he set foot in Madison Square Garden. He was accompanied by his dad. It was April 18, 1999 and the iconic place was abuzz.
Earlier that week, a banker friend called Dennis McGuire and asked him if he wanted two tickets to see the New York Rangers play their NHL regular-season finale versus Pittsburgh.
Dennis, a newly transplanted advertising specialist, agreed to take them knowing only that his oldest son, who was born in Minnesota and loved hockey, would be thrilled.
Neither had a clue the greatest hockey player ever was about to make an announcement that would make the tickets keepsakes and set off an unlikely series of events involving Corbin McGuire at The Garden.
"It was the last game of the season and the Rangers were not in the playoffs," Dennis McGuire recalled. "The next day, Gretzky announced his retirement and you couldn't get a ticket."
Wayne Gretzky, the all-time leading scorer in NHL history, played the final game of his 20-year career with New York that Sunday.
Gretzky was such an iconic performer that both National Anthem singers tweaked the lyrics to acknowledge him that day and his jersey No. 99 was immediately retired by the NHL.
Gretzky assisted on the lone goal against the Penguins, finished with 2,857 points in his career and was quickly inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame, waiving the usual waiting period.
About all Corbin remembers from that day is that the Rangers lost 2-1 in overtime, that future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr accounted for the winning goal and that fans stayed in their seats until after Gretzky made a heartfelt postgame speech.
"It was an amazing experience," Corbin said.
Photo: Wisconsin Badgers
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