There must be something in the Ontario water supply to explain why Canada’s most populous province has given the world so many incredible hockey players. Wayne Gretzky hails from Brantford, while Bobby Orr once called Parry Sound home. That’s only two athletes, you might say, but they happen to be ranked as the number one and two all-time National Hockey League players by no less an authority as The Hockey News.
Gretzky tops the list, and though his last name conveniently rhymes with his nickname, “The Great One,” it was his performance on the ice that gave the moniker teeth. Even after retiring in 1999, he still holds the record for most career goals in regular-season play (894), most goals in a single season (91 in 1981-1982), most career assists (1,963), most career points (2,857), and most three-or-more-goal games (50).
Little wonder, then, that when Gretzky retired, it wasn’t just the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, and New York Rangers who retired number 99—every team in the NHL set the digits aside.
For collectors of vintage hockey memorabilia, Gretzky’s Topps NHL rookie card from the 1979-1980 season is among the most desirable pieces of paper in the sport. Back in the late 1970s, O-Pee-Chee was branding those same Topps hockey cards with an OPC logo—both versions are collectible. Far more common are cards from his years with the Kings, Blues, and Rangers, although a card from Gretzky’s first year with each of those teams makes a nice set.
More than any other hockey player, Gretzky enjoyed a lucrative career endorsing products. As a result, many collectors of hockey memorabilia look beyond traditional objects like jerseys, pucks, and sticks to focus on boxes of Post cereal brands and kids lunch boxes.
But for those who must have a game-used jersey, a killer combo is to pair Gretzky’s blue and orange Edmonton Oilers road jersey from 1979 with his black and silver Los Angeles Kings road uniform from 1988.