The Great One
As a child, I idolized Wayne Gretzky. I would read and reread a paperback copy of The Great Gretzky by Terry Jones that I got from a sale at a Toronto Public Library back in 1982. I know this is where I got the book because I'm looking at it right now and there is a stamp that reads "Since this book is no longer in demand Toronto Public Library is offering it for sale".
Back in 1982 Gretzky's professional career was really just beginning. This book was published following his third year in the NHL when he was just 21 and without a Stanley Cup. I was baffled at how good he was at so young an age. There is a story in this book about a ten year old Gretzky scoring 378 goals in a season while I was struggling at Rennie Park in Swansea to score one. At a time when Toronto was celebrating Rick Vaive's 50 goal seasons it was awe inspiring to read about Gretzky's 50 in 39 games. He was The Great One then and he's The Great One now.
During a trip last winter to The Hockey Hall of Fame, I was most intrigued by the Gretzky exhibits. The man has so many NHL records they literally have a Gretzky wing. In a decade during which my home town team was abysmal, I could always root for the Edmonton Oilers in the spring and for Gretzky to win another cup. He won four during the 80s and the heart of many a young hockey fan.
Today, I'm still a Gretzky fan, but I now have one regret regarding #99. I fear he has become commercially overexposed. The man has done so many endorsements over the past fifteen years, it seems I can't turn on the television without seeing him hocking another product. He has done commercials for McDonald's, the Hudson's Bay Co., Hallmark Cards, Nike, Post Cereal, Coca-Cola, Esso and Ford, and that's just a short sample. I'm not suggesting he doesn't have the right to make a buck in this fashion, I'm just wishing he had better picked his spots and approached the selling of Wayne in a more subtle manner. I just don't like seeing him selling cars night after night. My childhood hero is above that sort of thing.