Wayne Gretzky

Yesterday I had the opportunity to get a picture taken with Wayne Gretzky.  Such a special moment for me.

When he reached out his hand to shake mine, I looked him straight into his eyes and told him “It is an honor.”  Seeing the logo for the Seattle Kraken on my shirt, he immediately said that the Kraken are doing really well this year.  Of course, I agreed with him.

The next thing I know Wayne is shaking my hand again and telling me it was nice to meet me.  The entire interaction probably took less than 3 minutes, if that.

Nevertheless, I am so glad that I had the moment with him.  Three reasons.

One, hockey is my sport.  Of all the sports I have played it is by far my favorite. I was lucky enough to play in prep school and in college.  How I got started in hockey is a great story, but I will leave that for another time.  Another interesting story is how I got the nickname “Penalty”, but again I will tell that story at another time.

While I don’t play hockey any more, I follow the game closely, both at the National Hockey League level and also in the American Hockey League, which is the triple A minor league for the NHL.  In fact, I am a season ticket holder for the Coachella Valley Firebirds, the farm club for the NHL Seattle Kraken hockey club.  This is the inaugural season for the Firebirds, who are based in Palm Desert California.  They are doing really well, holding down first place in the Pacific Division of the American Hockey League.  They have a midseason record of 27 wins and only 6 losses.  It is the best record in the entire 32 team League.

The way I was able to get a moment with “the Great One” (Wayne Gretzky’s nickname) was because the Firebirds’ sold out home game yesterday featured Wayne Gretzky dropping the puck to start the game.  As a season ticket holder I was given the opportunity to get a picture with Wayne before the game if I was willing to shell out $199.  So I did.  I did it for three reasons.

The first reason is this is the game I love the most, and Wayne Gretzky is generally accepted as the greatest hockey player of all time.

The second reason stems from the fact that I believe Gretzky is the best ambassador for a professional sport that there is.  This is my small way of saying thank you to him for everything he has done for the game and continues to do.

The third reason is a very personal one.  Some 30 years ago I was working and living in the Los Angeles area at the same time that Wayne Gretzky was Captain of the Los Angeles Kings NHL team.   What a special treat it was to be able to see him play in person.  one night I wanted to take my 8 year old son, Guy, a hockey player himself, to see the Kings play and in particular to see Gretzky play.

I reached out ahead of time to a friend who had a connection to the Kings to see if it would be at all possible to have my son meet Wayne Gretzky after the game.  The answer I got back was yes, it would be possible, if, and only if, they win the game.  The reason for this was that the Kings were on a long and frustrating losing streak.

The Kings lost the game by a wide margin.  Nevertheless, I decided to walk down to the locker room area after the game just to see if we might get lucky and still see Gretzky.  Standing guard at the Kings locker room door was a security officer.  I, with my son in tow, walked up to him and told him the situation and introduced him to Guy, my son.  Instead of outright dismissing us, he kindly said to stand next to him and let’s see what happens.

We waited while some Kings’ officials streamed in and out of the locker room.  We waited and waited for at least 40 minutes.  This was after 10pm at night, a little late for an 8 year old.  But wait we did.

Every time the door to the locker room opened up we could see Gretzky at the far end taking off his gear, talking to other players on the team.  Then, the door opened again and we looked down the corridor.  This time we saw Gretzky motion with his hand to come in.  the security guard saw this too.  He told us to go in.

We arrived at the bench that Wayne was sitting on, but before I could say anything, Wayne apologized to me and my son for not seeing us sooner.  And then he proceeded to introduce himself to my son, asking Guy about his hockey.  Wayne then proceeded to give Guy his autograph on a picture that we still cherish.  It was such a wonderful moment.  It brought tears to my eyes at the time and every time I tell this story my eyes well up.

This story tells me everything I need to know about Wayne Gretzky — the human being, the person — who just happens to be the greatest to ever play the game of hockey.


6 thoughts on “Wayne Gretzky”

  1. Awesome! Gretz was always a class act. I was the Regional VP of the bank in Edmonton during his time there. For many years I enjoyed watching him perform magic from the comfort of our 4th row season TIX and as well from our skybox. Had my eldest son there the nite they won their 1st Stanley Cup. I played golf with him a couple of times (in his $399.00 Charity Tournament held at the golf club I belonged to, still have and wear the shirt) and our bank sponsored a made for tv Match Play tournament where he , Jerome Iginla (Calgary flame, but a native of Edmonton) , MIke Weir Canadian Masters Champ of Augusta) and Hull played (maybe you watched it on tv about 2001. Interesting sidelite, you will remember his bodyguard Dave Semenko, since deceased, Dave used to board at Liz’s Brother’s home, our kids enjoyed going to breakfast at IHOP with the Gentle Giant.

  2. What a great experience for you and Guy!! Love the photos too! It is always nice when your hero lives up to the hype!

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