Wayne Gretzky had a pretty busy Wednesday: he attended a ceremony for the unveiling of his statue at its new home outside the Edmonton Oilers’ new arena, and moments after was officially named partner and vice-chair of the Oilers Entertainment Group, rejoining the team he spent the best years of his Hall Of Fame career with.
Watch below: As he was introduced as a partner and Vice-Chairman of Oilers Entertainment Group, Wayne Gretzky discussed why he made the move and commented on the Oilers being a “machine headed in the right direction.”
After that, Gretzky was set to take in the home opener between the Oilers and their archrival Calgary Flames. But before hitting the Rogers Place ice for the opening ceremony, he took a warmup skate next door – much to the surprise of some fellow hockey players.
“There was a bit of a commotion,” MacEwan University Griffins head coach Bram Stephen said in a release Thursday. “We were in the middle of a drill and our players basically just stopped practicing.”
The Griffins practice in a new community rink connected to the Oilers’ new home at Rogers Place. So No. 99 didn’t have to go very far when he decided to lace up his skates and to have a bit of fun.
According to the Griffins, Gretzky crashed the team’s practice about 45 minutes before the puck was dropped between the Oilers and Flames.
“When he poked his head out and came for a couple of laps, everyone got pretty excited,” Griffins’ player Daniel Wray said. “He came over the boards beside me and chatted with assistant coach Stephen Zipp and I. It was cool to talk to him.
Stephen said Gretzky’s impromptu appearance also saw him catch up with an old friend.
“Our assistant coach Darrell Holowaychuk used to work in the Oilers organization for two decades,” he said. “I was very happy for Darrell to reconnect with Wayne because I know that they’ve known each other for a lot of years. It was pretty special to watch, to be honest.”
Watch below: Wednesday marked a significant day in the history of the Edmonton Oilers. Not only was the team playing its NHL home opener, it was doing so in its brand new downtown arena. And to top it off, the team announced it was bringing back the most beloved player in team history to fill an off-ice role.