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Wayne Gretzky coming to Red Deer


Although he hasn’t played in the National Hockey League since 1999, Wayne Gretzky is still the most recognized name in the sport.

And he’s coming to Red Deer.

Gretzky will be the keynote speaker at the 10th annual RDC Kings and Queens Scholarship Breakfast, March 28 at the Parkland Pavilion at Westerner Park.

The breakfast is the No. 1 fundraiser for the college’s athletic scholarship program.

“And the scholarships directly influence the student athletes, so we want this to be big and I’m sure it will be,” said RDC athletic director Keith Hansen. “The No. 1 goal is to provide a great event and No. 2, and equally as important, is to make money. We hope the community support is there for the athletes.”

The Pavilion can hold 1,800 and Hansen believes they can challenge that number.

“Informally people are really interested in having Gretzky here and there will be a lot of fan interest,” added Hansen. “We’re hoping to reach at least 1,200 and there’s a chance to make the 1,800 number. It’s wonderful we can have that type of capacity.”

Gretzky is the biggest name in a impressive list of keynote speakers over the last 10 years. Former RDC King and present day Detroit Red Wings head coach, Mike Babcock, was one of the bigger names to be on hand and is one of the major supporters of the Kings hockey team, which is returning next season.

“We’ve had an amazing list of speakers over the years and with this being our 10th anniversary, and with BMO our major sponsor all those years, we wanted it to be bigger and better,” said Hansen.

The possibility of Gretzky coming seemed like a pipe dream until Al Lucas, who is the chairman of the scholarship breakfast committee, did some investigating.

“Early in the year we were brainstorming names, and as usual Gretzky’s name came up,” said Hansen. “At the time I thought it was a bit of a pipe dream, but Al looked into it and suddenly it didn’t seem such a pipe dream and it could be a reality.

“A lot of credit goes to Al for exploring the possibility. He knew what he as doing and it worked out.”

Lucas and Janice Wing, who is the director of advancement, did a lot of the work with Gretzky’s agent and finally crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s on the contract.

The 51-year-old Gretzky was born in Brantford, Ont., and played 20 years in the NHL after signing with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association in 1978. The Racers traded him to the Edmonton Oilers, who joined the NHL when the WHA folded after the 1978-79 season. Gretzky helped the Oilers win four Stanley Cups before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings on Aug. 9, 1988. He played eight full seasons with the Kings before moving to the St. Louis Blues late in the 1995-96 season. The following season he signed with the New York Rangers, playing there years before retiring.

He played 1,487 games, scoring 894 goals and adding 1,963 assists, both NHL records.

He played for Canada eight times, including in four Canada Cups, a World Championship, a World Junior Championship and the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan.

Gretzky purchased 10 per cent of the Phoenix Coyotes in May of 2000 and took over as head coach of the team on Oct. 5, 2005. He was on the bench for four years accumulating a 143-161-24 record.

Tickets for the breakfast go on sale Monday. They’re $199 for a single breakfast ticket and $999 for a table of eight. There will also be a meet and greet following the breakfast, which is at 7:30 a.m.. Tickets are $999 each. There will also be a VIP tables available, which includes eight breakfast and eight meet and greet tickets, for $7,999.

Single ticket sales are available at bkticketcentre.ca or by calling 403-755-6626 or 1-800-661-8793. Corporate tables can be purchased by calling Carolyn Neufeld at 403-343-4093 or at carolyn.neufeld@rdc.ab.ca.

“We’re excited about the breakfast and we hope there’s a major rush for tickets in the next couple of weeks,” concluded Hansen.

 

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