Wayne Gretzky did not retire today, but the announcement by the Los Angeles Kings that he will be out indefinitely -- possibly the entire season -- because of a herniated disk in his upper back could be the first step in that direction. Gretzky, hockey's career-leading scorer and the Kings' captain, will not undergo surgery at this time, according to Dr. Robert Watkins, the team's spine specialist. But Watkins did term the injury "one in a million" and said that Gretzky would be treated with medication and exercise.[...] There had been rumors circulating throughout the National Hockey League that Gretzky, hospitalized since last Wednesday after complaining of chest pain, might announce his retirement. But Gretzky said that he had not given consideration to leaving the game. "The only thing I'm dealing with now is getting rid of this pain," said Gretzky, who was accompanied by his wife, the actress Janet Jones. "I haven't thought of anything past that." [...] About the possibility that Gretzky might never return, Watkins said: "It has the possibility of being a career- ending injury, but we're optimistic that the prognosis is good for his recovery."
All the Kings' men walked past Wayne Gretzky, who was standing with a cup of coffee near the team's dressing room at the Forum on Monday morning. Goodbyes were exchanged as the Kings left for their regular-season opener tonight in Calgary. Gretzky was offering encouragement, which is about all he has to offer these days. His back injury--a herniated disk--has cast a long shadow over the Kings' prospects for the 1992-93 season. Gretzky's own future is uncertain. [...]
So now comes the hard part. The Kings have to make the playoffs.