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From the Hotel to Hollywood: Jamie Storr's Month with the Great One

Jamie Storr recalls being invited to live with teammate Wayne Gretzy as he adjusted to life in Los Angeles

by Mike Commito @mikecommito /

Not long after Jamie Storr was drafted seventh overall by the LA Kings in 1994, the young netminder received a phone call at his family home in Brampton, Ontario.

His mother picked it up. On the other end of the line was a voice claiming to be Wayne Gretzky, and that he would like to speak with Jamie. 

Although her son was recently drafted by the Kings, Storr's mother was sure it was a prank. After Gretzky assured her that it was indeed him, she handed the phone to her son so that he could speak with his future teammate, the Great One. 

It was one thing to get drafted, but it was quite another to be selected by the team that boasted Wayne Gretzky.

"Stepping into that era, it was a really big deal for me," Storr recently reminisced. "Being around the likes of Jari Kurri, Rob Blake, Marty McSorley, Darryl Sydor, and Kelly Hrudey. There were lots of guys I looked up to, and having Wayne Gretzky there was the icing on the cake," he continued. 

It was almost too much to process. "It was basically like stepping right off my couch and into the TV all at once. It was really surreal getting into it," Storr recalled. Things only got more surreal once Storr got to LA. 

During his first training camp with the Kings, Storr was rooming in a hotel with Matt Johnson. Both had just been drafted by the club and were just happy to be at an NHL training camp.

One night, Storr remembers getting a phone call from Sam McMaster, the club's general manager at the time, informing him that Gretzky wanted the pair to move into his house so they could get out of the hotel and be in a family environment instead. 

For one reason or another, perhaps overcome with excitement that they would be rooming with the Great One, Storr and Johnson got into a big pillow fight. As the shenanigans escalated, they doused each other, and the room, with water.

"And being 18 years old and not very smart, we turned the air conditioner up full blast and woke up the next morning with sore throats," Storr recounted.

When they notified the team of their condition, they were informed that they could not report to Gretzky's house until they were both healthy. 

But sure enough, after a few days passed, Storr and Johnson were on their way to Gretzky's mansion on Mulholland Drive.

"It was like stepping into a world you can't even fathom," Storr described. "After practice one day, he's like 'We have to stop at The Tonight Show, I'm doing The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,'" he continued. 

Another time after practice, Storr remembers going to watch Monday Night Football with Gretzky at someone's house. It was only once he arrived that Storr discovered they were actually at the Malibu home of the producer of Monday Night Football.

"And everyone on the couch was a movie star. It was just one thing after another living in that atmosphere," Storr detailed. 

But it was about more than just getting a glimpse into the Hollywood lifestyle. For Storr, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

"You got to see how the best player who ever played the game acted in everyday situations. You got to see the way he treated others. He was very respectful. Very kind," Storr explained.

"Mr. Gretzky is still the nicest man I've ever met, never mind the best hockey player to ever play. To have that opportunity was very special," he continued. 

Living under Gretzky's roof, Storr also got some insights into the game.

"The best advice he ever gave me was 'Look, I don't know a lot about goaltending but the best goaltender to ever play the game was Grant Fuhr. He wasn't a big guy, but he wore the biggest gear possible and took up the most amount of net,'" Storr recollected.

"The funny thing is, in my 15th year playing hockey, I wore the biggest gear possible and took up the most amount of net and I ended up having the most success," he chuckled. 

It was shaping up to be an incredible start to the year for Storr, and Johnson, but then the NHL lockout delayed the start of the season. Their stay with Gretzky abruptly came to an end and the pair both returned to their respective junior clubs. 

When the work stoppage ended and the NHL's shortened campaign commenced in January 1995, both returned to the Kings.

Upon arriving back in LA, Storr recalls Gretzky telling him and Johnson that they had had such a good time that the family wanted to billet them for the rest of the season. 

There was, however, another Hollywood possibility.

Gretzky explained that Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn were interested in taking in Storr because he was a goaltender and their son, Wyatt, was an aspiring netminder. Meanwhile, Johnson was lined up to move in with Martin Short and his wife. 

But General Manager McMaster was having none of that. "Sam said, 'There's no way I'm putting those kids in those homes as billets,'" Storr laughed. "We ended up going to El Segundo and moving in with two billet families that we both became pretty close with," he added. 

All told, Storr was only with the Gretzkys for about a month, but it was something he would never forget.

"To have two kids from Ontario be a part of his life, that's something we will always remember," he recalled.

Storr went on to play nine seasons for the Kings, but nothing could compare to that memorable first month rooming with the Great One. 

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