Last week, Wayne Gretzky celebrated his 51st birthday. Fifty-one! Boy how time flies.
I was 7 when I was introduced to hockey cards. That was the year after Gretzky's rookie card - 1980. I can still remember getting the Gretzky 1st team All-Star card and thinking that it was the Holy Grail of my collection. So much so, I think I wrote my name on the back of it.
I was in high school when Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles. The world just seemed to stop as a group of us watched Wayne's press conference. Surreal.
I remember working my first job in the news industry when Gretzky retired. Again, it was such a huge story....front page news everywhere. I remember grabbing dozens of copies of newspapers thinking they would eventually be worth something.
And now he's 51. I've forgotten that he coached for a few years, I forgotten that he's a generation past in the league. What I do remember are the fantastic memories he was able to carve on the ice.
So when I saw this book sitting on the shelf, I thought I'd share it.
The Great Gretzky. Even in 1980 (when this book was written) he was adorned with the moniker. Talk about expectation and pressure put on someone.
This 94-page book written by Edmonton newspaper writer Terry Jones takes the reader through Wayne's youth, his junior days, his pro start in the WHA and his initial push in the NHL.
As a kid, it was all about the photos though. And this book had some nice ones. While mostly in black & white, there are a few 'sections' dedicated to glossy color photos.
Looking back, I'm surprised I never took the scissors to it (as I did with some of my other hockey publications).
By the way.....love the Jofa helmet.
Not as much as the CCM lid though (I hardly remember him in that getup).
But there was also some good quality reading material. I tried to convince my teacher of that in elementary school. Sadly, I was not allowed to use The Great Gretzky for my book report.
Here's a little piece on Gretzky and the ruling about his ineligibility to win the Calder trophy for rookie of the year (how many of you knew he didn't win that piece of hardware?).
You think players today are signing ridiculously long contract terms? How about this gem that Wayne signed in 1980. A near 20-year contract! Keeping him an Oiler until 1999 (not quite Mr. Pocklington).
While the book is battered, bruised and for some reason has a pear-scented 'scratch and sniff' sticker on it (which no longer works), it proudly sits in my hockey collection.
There's just something about items you obtain (and manage to hold on to) as a kid that just makes it seem way more special.
Lastly, the cover of the book gave me some inspiration. Maybe it's the zone I'm in right now, but when I scanned it in tonight, it looked just like....
a hockey card. So I indulged and created this custom piece honoring the book - and Wayne's birthday.
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