It’s been nearly two decades since Wayne Gretzky last decked out opponents in the NHL, but on Monday night, VIPs at a charity function in Hamilton claim ‘The Great One’ pulled a fast one on them.
VIP attendees paid between $999 and $1499 for tickets which also promised a photo with Canada’s Hockey icon.
Dubbed “An Evening with The Great One”, the event was a celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the 1987 Canada Cup victory. Proceeds went to Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart Program to support minor hockey as well Food4Kids, a program providing food for school children in Hamilton.
Those who attended the evening at Carmen’s Event Centre say it was a top-shelf affair. When it came time for VIPs to get their photo taken with Gretzky at the end of the night though, guests who spoke with CityNews say number 99 vanished, leaving event coordinators scrambling.
“We were in the front of the line and we were all excited because we saw Wayne standing there talking to someone and there was a photographer there but then he just left,” says Judy Marsales, a longtime Gretzky supporter. Marsales attended the event with her sister, a former Oilers season ticket holder from Edmonton’s glory days, as well as their 87-year-old mother.
“We were told he just went to the washroom which was understandable, it was a long night right? Then we waited and waited… and no Wayne,” Marsales says.
Carmen’s Group CEO, PJ Mercanti, says his staff were left to wrangle Dale Hawerchuk, former Maple Leaf Wendel Clark and some others who were in the VIP reception to take pictures with guests. Mercanti acknowledges it was a “small consolation prize versus getting a picture with Wayne.”
Mercanti says before the evening began, sponsors and committee members did get their picture with Gretzky. Afterwards, only a handful of VIPs as well as other sponsors got a photo with the Great One, but a long line estimated at between 50 to 100 VIP guests were left hanging with no Wayne in sight. The Great One had left the building.
Mercanti says his team has been left “surprised and disappointed for the fans” who didn’t get their time with a living legend, adding that the expectations for the evening were made clear to the Stanley Cup champion.
The Carmen’s group tells CityNews, at the time of publishing, they hadn’t heard anything from Gretzky’s camp, adding they hope to somehow make it up to the guests left disappointed.
CityNews reached out to the agency reportedly handling Gretzky’s appearance Monday night for clarity on what happened. They have yet to respond.
As for disappointed fan Judy Marsales, if she had a chance to speak with the Great One today she’d tell him “Wayne I love you dearly but I think you need to really honour the people who come out and spend some time to show their gratitude for all your contributions to Canadian sport. Your legacy is one thing, your future is something to be respected as well.”