Add Springfield to the list of places where Wayne Gretzky has starred.
The leading scorer in NHL history, who played in Edmonton, Los Angeles, St. Louis and New York, will appear on the Dec. 11 episode of "The Simpsons." As Homer Simpson's boss Mr. Burns would say, "Excellent."
"We reached out to him," said Al Jean, who has been an executive producer of the show since 1998. "We were looking for heroes of the winter like Santa Claus and Jack Frost, and there couldn't be a bigger hockey hero than Wayne Gretzky."
Gretzky, the NHL leader in goals (894) assists (1,963) and points (2,857), played for 21 seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers from 1979-99.
"People argue about a lot of things, but they never argue about who's the greatest hockey player. It's always him," Jean said of Gretzky, who recorded his part this summer. "I don't think there is anybody better at anything that Gretzky is as a hockey player. He had a lot of great stories and it was a real pleasure to meet him."
Jean grew up in Michigan and is a Detroit Red Wings fan.
"We just did a list (of athletes on the show)," he said. "[Gretzky is] one of my favorites. I would say the only one that rivals him in terms of success in their sport is the Williams sisters (Serena and Venus) in tennis, and Magic Johnson in the NBA."
Dozens of athletes have lent their voice to the show, but Gretzky will be the first hockey player to do so. Gordie Howe's likeness was used in the Season 3 episode "Bart the Lover," which aired Feb. 13, 1992. Bart used a picture of Howe in a letter and says "Strap on your skates, Gordie, you're going in!" when he cuts the picture of out of the book "NHL Stars of 1969." Howe's career stats flashed across the screen at the end of the episode.
"We had to get permission, and his wife, Colleen, thought it was a great idea to use him in the show," Jean said of Howe. "Growing up a big Red Wings fan, there's nobody bigger than Gordie.
"My dad has had season tickets at Joe Louis Arena for pretty much the whole run of Joe Louis Arena. He got the tickets back when they weren't a good team, and we saw the whole rise and Stanley Cups. When the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup for the first time in my life in 1997, that was one of one of the highlights of my life, to go with my dad to that game."
In the Season 6 episode "Lisa on Ice," which aired Nov. 13, 1994, Bart and Lisa end up playing each other in a game; Bart is a forward on one team and Lisa is the goalie on the other. Bart gets awarded a penalty shot with four seconds left but instead of shooting on Lisa, the two take off their equipment and hug at center ice.
"We have a lot of Canadians on the staff and a lot of hockey fans," Jean said. "A lot of us grew up in the northern U.S. or Canada."
"The Simpsons," the longest-running American sitcom and the longest-running American animated program (more than 600 episodes) is in its 28th season and airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.