LOS ANGELES -- Wayne Gretzky has roots all over the Stanley Cup Final, so it was only fitting that "The Great One" stood at center ice to get the festivities started Wednesday with Game 1 at Staples Center.
Gretzky was honored by the NHL and two of his former teams, the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers, as the person selected to drop the puck for the ceremonial faceoff between New York alternate captain Brad Richards and L.A. captain Dustin Brown.
Hockey's popularity grew in Southern California after Gretzky was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Kings on Aug. 9, 1988. Prior to the trade, his coach and general manager in Edmonton was Glen Sather, who for the past 14 years has been Rangers president and general manager.
Gretzky led the Kings to their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 1993. The Kings are now playing in their third Final. They won the Stanley Cup in 2012.
Gretzky still makes his home in Southern California.
Gretzky's ties to the Rangers go back to his final three seasons in the NHL. He spent them with the Rangers and played his last NHL game on April 18, 1999, at Madison Square Garden.