When hockey fans think of Wayne Gretzky, they think of big numbers.
It was no different when the hockey legend showed up at Oshawa’s Costco for a book signing.
The big numbers start with the 500 people who came for his 90-minute stop Monday.
Only 200, however, were given wristbands to meet their hockey hero, the star who wore No. 99 during a storied NHL career.
Gretzky, of course, is widely considered to be the No. 1 player in hockey history.
The Great One was in the city Oct. 17 to celebrate the release of his book named 99: Stories of the Game.
Hundreds of eager fans lined up to meet the hockey phenomenon. However, he was only there for a short time, 7 p.m. until roughly 8:30 p.m.
The book’s release also coincides with the NHL’s 99th anniversary that fittingly, matches the number he wore throughout his playing career with Edmonton, Los Angeles, St. Louis and New York.
Throughout the book, Gretzky looks back on the last 99 years and tells the reader, from his point of view, about the NHL’s most memorable moments and also shows the reader what the game means to him.
Although only 200 bracelets were given out to fans, that didn’t stop a few hundred others from lining up and waiting outside for a chance to meet one of Canada’s most popular athletes.
Jeremy O’Brien, 61, travelled from Peterborough, Ont. to see his favourite hockey player and waited in line more than three hours to get a signed book. O’Brien has fond memories of Gretzky.
“His last game resonates the most, April 18, 1999, Maple Leaf Gardens, I’ll never forget that,” says O’Brien. (Gretzky’s last game at the Gardens, according to the Canadian Press, was actually Dec. 19, 1998.)
Dale Bradbury, 56, from Port Hope, Ont., is another fan who came to see Gretzky. Bradbury bought four books so he could get them all signed and also recalls one of his favourite memories of Gretzky.
“He was playing against the Calgary Flames in the playoffs, 1986, coming down the left-wing, took a slapshot over the left shoulder of Mike Vernon and it went out of the net faster than it went in,” says Bradbury.
Gretzky, 55, is the owner of 60 individual records and played in the NHL from 1979 to 1999. He spent the beginning of his career with the Edmonton Oilers, moved onto the Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and finished his career with the New York Rangers. He also coached the Phoenix Coyotes from 2005-2009.
In his 1,487 games, Gretzky recorded 894 goals and 1,963 assists for 2,857 points which stand as NHL records.