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Gretzky to play exhibition game in Australia

55-year-old joins NHL players in five-game tour to raise sport's profile @NHLdotcom

Wayne Gretzky is returning to the ice to play in a 4-on-4 exhibition game in Sydney, Australia on June 25.

The 55-year-old will take part in the Wayne Gretzky Ice Hockey Classic, a series of five exhibition games featuring current and recently retired NHL players designed to promote hockey and raise money for an Australian charity.

"You know what, I've said it a thousand times in my lifetime that everything I have in my life is because of hockey," Gretzky told The Associated Press in remarks published Saturday. "And quite honestly, I never thought I'd ever one day be saying I'd be going to Australia, let alone go to Australia for a hockey event. You know, I'm so lucky."

Forwards John Scott (Montreal Canadiens) and Adam Cracknell (Edmonton Oilers), and goalies Ben Scrivens (Montreal Canadiens) and Scott Darling (Chicago Blackhawks) are among the players expected to participate, according to the event's website.

Australia has been a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation since 1938. With a population of about 23 million, Ice Hockey Australia lists 4,200 registrants, according to the IIHF.

The games will benefit Stop Concussions Foundation and Brain Injury Australia. The tour, which began Friday, includes stops in Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide.

Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings from the Edmonton Oilers prior to the 1988-89 NHL season. The trade was important to the eventual growth of hockey in California and other non-traditional markets, and he said he hopes participating in this event elevates the sport's profile Down Under in a similar fashion.

"Listen, in 1988, we had only 6,000 people show up at an L.A. Kings game. It takes time," Gretzky said. "The weather's a hindrance, there's no question it's very hot down there (in Australia). But once kids do participate in the game of hockey, they love it. So that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to raise awareness more than anything."

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