FORT MCMURRAY, ALBERTA (AP) - It started almost two decades ago with a $20 hockey stick once wielded by a forgotten player for a string of mediocre teams.
It ends at the auction block this week when millions of dollars are likely to change hands. This may be the world’s largest game-worn collection of memorabilia from the world’s best player from the sport’s last dynasty.
“When you’re a fan, fans are usually at a distance,” he recently told The Canadian Press in the basement office of his home in Fort McMurray.
The space is a forest of game-used Gretzky hockey sticks, a dressing room of game-worn Gretzky jerseys and a trainer’s bag full of assorted pucks, gloves, helmets and skates _ all touched, used and sweated in by the Great One himself.
“You love the game. You love the athletes, at a distance. At best, you get to attend an event and see them in person. Again, from a distance. And that’s as close as we get. This was all to help me get closer to the game.”
The online auction begins Friday through Montreal’s Classic Auctions. Among the of hundreds of items on sale are:
_the puck Gretzky shot to score his 500th goal, as well as the jersey and skates he was wearing at the time.
_gloves and helmets worn during Stanley Cup victories and regular-season games.
_skates replete with scuffs and repairs.
_Gretzky’s early-1980s Oilers Nike track suit.
_No. 99 practice jersey.
_Gretzky-used equipment bag.
_a stick from Gretzky’s first pro team, the World Hockey Association’s Indianapolis Pacers, on which the equipment manager stamped the name “Gretsky.”