by Mike Sadava, Edmonton Journal, April 17, 1999
The man who wrote the anthem Gretzky Rocks turned into a blithering idiot the only time he got to meet the Great One.
Moe Berg, a native Edmontonian who has lived in Toronto for more than a decade, has earned quite a bit of fame of his own in the music business with his band, The Pursuit of Happiness.
He was thrilled when Gretzky Rocks was played at Ottawa's Corel Centre during the Great One's last game in Canada.
But Berg's pursuit of Gretzky was not a huge success. The usually articulate musician found himself at a loss for words when he finally met him four years ago.
"I probably admire Wayne Gretzky more than any idol I've had in my life, even musical idols. I've met a lot of my musical idols, but when I met Wayne Gretzky I never felt more in awe of anybody in my life."
Berg's big chance came after a friend who works at Wayne Gretzky's Restaurant in Toronto told him that the man himself was going to be there.
Although there were dozens of people waiting to talk to Gretzky, the manager of the restaurant brought Berg up to his table and introduced them.
"I don't think Wayne was totally impressed that I was interrupting his dinner. I said: 'Hi Wayne, I'm a big fan.' I did not have a clue what to say. I was completely tongue-tied, like a 15-year-old kid asking the most beautiful girl in school to the prom."
Berg reached into his bag to pull out a CD to give to Gretzky, and one of the "goons" at his table stood up, as if Berg was going to pull out a gun. He calmed the man down and gave Gretzky the CD.
"He shook my hand and then I just slithered away. I felt ridiculous. I handled it completely badly. My only chance to meet him and I never got another chance."
As the song says, Berg has always been a Chicago Blackhawks fan, but he started realizing how great the Oilers were only after he moved away from Edmonton during the glory years.
"It's kind of like living in Paris and the Eiffel Tower is there. You don't realize how spectacular it is until you don't live where it is."
Something snapped in Berg the day Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles, when he realized that the greatest of all teams would never again be together.
But it was watching Gretzky's performance at the 1994 All Star game that inspired the song.
"I never heard a tribute to him before. It was one of those real bolts of inspiration. The whole song took me about an hour to write. It came to me like a flash ... Suddenly the whole thing revealed itself to me in an instant."
Although Berg has been "pretty choked up" about the retirement of his hero, sales of Where's the Bone, the album that includes Gretzky Rocks, have picked up at local record stores.
Kolin Hibbert, a sales person at the downtown A & B Sound, said he was planning to "dig it out and play it after coming upstairs depressed from watching the press conference," but the store's only copy had just been sold.
Copyright © 1999 Edmonton Journal