Wayne Gretzky wasn’t on with Carton & Roberts between 2-7 p.m. as always, but Tom Laidlaw, who is one of the 100 Greatest Rangers of All-Time, did join the show on Monday, and he shares a connection with the Great One: he and Gretzky were the assists on the goal by Bernie Nicholls in 1989 that saw Gretzky tie the all-time NHL points record.
Laidlaw made his bones as a Ranger, but he was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings in March 1987, and was there when the Kings made the biggest trade in NHL history to acquire Gretzky in August 1988.
“I was back here in New York, and ESPN was big back then, so they kept running the story that there was a rumor. Back then we were like ‘no way,’ but more details came out as the day went on, and I remember thinking to myself this could actually happen,” Laidlaw said. “I loved Los Angeles, but nobody cared about us out there – and all of a sudden, I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to play with Wayne Gretzky,’ and all of a sudden I felt like a better hockey player!”
Gretzky spent eight years in Los Angeles but just two with Laidlaw, who was done in the league after the 1989-90 season, but Laidlaw still got his signature moment: on October 15, 1989, he was the primary assist on the Nicholls goal, the middleman between The Great One and the future Ranger and Devil on what was Gretzky’s 1,850th career point.
“Gordie Howe had been traveling with us because Wayne was chasing his record, but Wayne hadn’t scored in a couple games,” Laidlaw said. “We went to Edmonton, and we had a 4-on-4 and it was like a Hockey Hall of Fame out there, with Wayne, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, all these guys. We’re in their zone, and we have three good offensive players out there and me – I’m the defensive guy in case something happens, so nobody’s paying attention to me.”
The goal came with former Ranger (and Laidlaw teammate) Barry Beck in the box for the Kings and future Ranger Kevin Lowe in the box for the Oilers, and gave L.A. a 1-0 lead.
“Wayne gets the puck along the boards, and I’m in the slot all by myself, so Wayne gets me the puck and I panic,” Laidlaw says. “I’m like, I don’t know how to score goals, I scored 25 goals in 10 years! So Bernie is being covered on the side, and I pass to Bernie, and he tips it in and scores.”
A landmark moment that brought some on-ice levity as everyone celebrated history.
“We’re dying laughing; everyone is cheering, and Bernie comes to me and says, ‘Laidlaw, what are you thinking passing it to me, I’m covered!’” Laidlaw joked.
Of course, Laidlaw was later in the box when Lowe scored a power play goal in the third to give Edmonton a lead…and that’s when Gretzky took over, netting the record-breaking point with his goal with 53 seconds left to tie the game, and then depositing the game winner in OT.
So, who has the puck from the famous moment?
“He threw it to me but I think the Hockey Hall of Fame took it,” Laidlaw laughed.
Check out Laidlaw’s entire appearance on Carton & Roberts below!