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Eddie Mio was a colourful, wisecracking goalie. He wasn’t the best goalie in the league, but he was perhaps the wittiest. Eddie was playing in Indianapolis of the WHA when he first met Wayne Gretzky. At the time Gretzky was a 17 year old phenom about to make his professional debut. “How you gonna feel, playing with a star like that?” a reporter asked Mio.”Ask HIM,” he sniffed, “how he’s gonna like playing with Eddie Mio.“ The answer to that question was Gretzky liked it very much. The two became best friends. It seems like everyone in hockey is Gretzky’s best friend, so it must have been hard for The Great One to pick a best man for his wedding right? Mark Messier? Kevin Lowe? Jari Kurri? Dave Semenko? Glen Sather? Nope. Gretzky chose Eddie Mio. Eddie Mio r recently described his relationship with #99 in an interview with NHLPA.com
“The relationship over the years has grown I think from our first day into, I would almost think, as the big brother he never had.“ Mio actually thinks the friendship grew stronger once the two were separated when Mio left the Oilers.”The relationship I think built more and was a little bit more solid after I had left Edmonton where we kept the relationship going as far as friendship in trips during the summer and just visiting him. Just all in all, I think it grew after I left Edmonton.“ Gretzky and Mio don’t get to spend as much time together as they’d like, even though both are now retired.
” We don’t talk every week. If we don’t hear from each other for about two weeks or maybe three weeks, one of us will pick up the phone and it doesn’t mean I’m always picking up. He’ll call out of the blue or I’ll call but we both respect how busy we are even after he’s retired and he knows that I’m on the road a lot. He’s always checking in. He likes to hear what my young guys are doing so he’s very interested in the hockey world even though he’s retired.” The young guys Mio refers to are his clients. Mio is now a player agent Eddie started his hockey career by playing collegiate hockey at Colorado College of the WCHA. During his four years in Colorado, he received several honours including being named to the WCHA Second All-Star Team in 1975 and the WCHA First All-Star Team in 1976. He was also selected to the NCAA West First All-American Team in both 1975 and 1976. After a year in the minors Mio made his major league debut in 1977-78 when he joined the Indianapolis Racers for his first year in the World Hockey Association.
During the 1978-79 campaign is when Mio first met Gretzky. They were teammates on the Racers for a brief period of time before one of the most historic trades in hockey history took place in November of that season as Mio and Peter Driscoll were dealt along with Gretzky to the Edmonton Oilers for cash. Mio loves to tell the story of the day they were traded. Eight games into the season, financially troubled Racers owner Nelson Skalbania decided to fold the team. However since Gretzky was on a personal services contract, he first had to trade the teenage phenom. Skalbania had two deals going, one with the Winnipeg Jets and one with the Edmonton Oilers. Both deals also involved Mio and Peter Driscoll. things were moving so quickly that all three were put on a private jet and headed to western Canada, though they didn’t know where the plane was going to land.
Needless to say the pilots were as confused as the passengers. They wanted to know who was paying for the flight. “Who’s paying for this flight?” they asked. They looked at one another. Gretzky had lots of money in the bank, but was too young to have a credit card. The other two were broke. So Eddie Mio reached into his pocket, pulled out his VISA card with the $300 limit, and signed for a $10,000 trip on a Learjet. Somewhere in midair, the pilot got the word: They were Oilers. They landed in Edmonton. Mio of course was more concerned about his credit card “Hey,” he demanded. “Who’s gonna cover this credit card?”
Mio finished the season in the WHA with Edmonton and remained an Oiler in 1979-80 when the club joined the NHL Mio spent two more seasons in Edmonton with Gretzky and a roster of blossoming stars, playing in 77 games with the Oilers and posting a record of 25-28-14, Playing with such a talented group of youngsters was a highlight for Eddie. “Well, the first couple seasons, we made the playoffs, we made the 16th spot in our first year into the league. We got beat a lot but we were a bunch of young kids … actually, I should say they were a bunch of young kids, I was already 26, but we had an older squad back then. Guys like Stan Weir, Claire Alexander, Al Hamilton, Peter Driscoll was older, Ron Chipperfield, Bret Callighen.
” What the great part was watching guys like … the first year, I think Kevin Lowe was with us in ’79, Mark Messier was with us in ’79, I think Dave Lumley was also there. But Gretz elevated everything. I mean even Ace Bailey was there. So you see that we weren’t that young. And then the following year, Glen Sather made a few more changes. That’s when Coffey came in and then Charlie Huddy and a few more young guys were coming in. And those two years, it was fantastic watching how the team was really developing. And my third year there was even better because now you saw really the young guys take over. And they had Glenn Anderson in there and watching these guys play, I remember a time when we beat the Montreal Canadiens, 9-2, and playing net that night, watching these guys skate was unbelievable. It was great.“ Mio didn’t mind playing for a team with a reputation for only being interested in scoring goals.
” We gave up a lot of shots. I mean in that game, it was 9-2 and I was first star in the game because I had something like 41 shots. But it was exciting as far as my point of view of watching everything unfold. I had seven assists in 1980, all I had to do was give the puck to Paul Coffey! So watching these guys develop and then obviously being traded in ’81 to New York and watching them really take off,” said Mio in the same NHLPA.com article. Eddie was traded to the New York Rangers for the 1981-82 campaign. Mio played two years in New York and it was with the Rangers that he enjoyed his best NHL season as he tied his career-high in wins with 16 while also posting two shutouts and a 3.45 goals-against average. After his two seasons in The Big Apple, Mio played his final three NHL seasons with the Detroit Red Wings before opting to retire from hockey after the 1985-86 season.
Over his NHL career, Mio appeared in 192 games, posting a record of 64-73-30, while recording four shutouts and a 4.06 goals-against average. Aside from all the great friends he made as a result of hockey, Mio counts his first game as a career highlight. “Obviously anytime you got a shutout in those days was memorable. But I would have to say my most memorable highlight was that first NHL game that I played in. And it happened to be against the Detroit Red Wings and I grew up in Windsor so it was a big part of my life. And we tied them, 3-3, in 1979 and it was the first game that I had played. We had just come back from Chicago and Dave Dryden played that game and I played the first game at home. Channel 50 was broadcasting the game back home at the time and my parents got to see it.”
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