The Great One

When I found out it was Wayne Gretzky's birthday yesterday I didn't think much of it. I read a couple paragraphs over my morning coffee and went on with my day. It didn't cross my mind again until my drive home from work listening to the Team 990 all sports radio station. Mitch Melnick had a couple guests speaking about their experiences covering the Gretzky era of the NHL. The interview started triggering my very own memories of The Great One.

Gretzky was the most dominant hockey player, for the longest period of time. This made him the greatest player ever. My biggest memory of The Great One is not about what he did on the ice but what he did off the ice and goes back to when he was first starting out.

Gretzky had built a reputation for himself in his first year in the WHA. In the NHL he became the legend that his is today. 1981 marked the third year in professional hockey for the 20 year old and with his name finally becoming one of renown, his second career as a spokesman was launched. As an impressionable kid in 1981 I had heard of Gretzky, heard everyone talking about him and had seen him play hockey on TV. And then I saw his TV ad for GWG Scrubbies jeans.
Wayne Gretzky wears GWG Scrubbies? Gretzky is cool. I need a pair of GWG Scrubbies. As the tag line said, GWG Scrubbies fit wear it counts.
Within moments of seeing the ad I ran upstairs and told my mom that I wanted GWG Scrubbies. I needed GWG Scrubbies. She questioned why GWG all of a sudden? I told her that I heard that they were good jeans and popular. I was surprised as all hell when my mom bought me a pair.

So, it was back to school and after a couple months of wondering why I was the only one wearing GWG Scrubbies it suddenly dawned on me, GWG Scrubbies aren't cool. And Gretzky? Not so much either. And I was stuck with a pair of GWGs. Who cares if they fit where it counts?! And to make matters worse, I didn't grow much that year and was stuck with the same pair for both semesters.

More time passed and it hit me that good old Wayne was a geek. A great athlete but a geek. 1982 brought the Mats Naslund era to Montreal and Gretzky commercials no longer spoke to me. What's more the only local hockey related ads on TV starred the long retired Maurice Richard. And I wasn't in the market for Grecian Formula. I was able to recognize that Gretzky was a great talent but it was a little overkill. And, above all, he didn't play for Montreal.

Later, much later, my opinion of Gretzky changed again. When the news spread of him dating, and then later marrying Janet Jones, hmm... maybe he was cool. But that's still no excuse for making me buy GWG Scrubbies.

 I can't find the English language version

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