The city of Edmonton will never forget about the day Wayne Gretzky turned 18.
It was a special and historic day for the Oilers’ organization, and they made sure to make it special for the kid who would grow up to become the greatest hockey player of all time as well.
The Oilers held a birthday party for an 18-year-old Gretzky that no one would soon forget. Ahead of a game, they brought in a cake on center ice in the shape of the number 99.
His teammates were there with a bottle of sparkling champagne. The Oilers even surprised him by flying in his parents, his three brothers, and his sister.
But then it was time for the next surprise, courtesy of Wayne Gretzky himself. The owner, Peter Pocklington, and Wayne Gretzky shocked the sold-out crowd by bringing out a contract, which Gretzky signed on center ice.
It wasn’t just a contract; it was the contract of all contracts. Gretzky’s contract signed him with the Oilers for 21(!) years, until 1999, with a renegotiation clause after 10 years.
This was when the Oilers were still in the WHA, which allowed Gretzky to sign a personal services contract, and number 99 liked the ring of staying until 1999.
“Looks like I’m here for life,” said Gretzky after the game. “I’ve played in four different cities in the last three years. I don’t need to move again. Everything is great here. There’s no sense leaving.”
But not everything was as they seemed that night. Years later, Wayne Gretzky revealed the truth about what really happened that night and how he, in fact, didn’t sign a contract at center ice.
“They said to me, ‘When you get out there, just sign it so it looks like you’ve signed it, but you don’t really sign the contract.’ So I reached over and did it right at center ice,” Gretzky said in an interview some years ago.
“Everyone thinks I signed it ‘Wayne Gretzky,’ but then after the game, we all went into a room and I ended up signing the real contract. ‘My dad was sitting there going, ‘You know what, take the security, sign it.’ And I said, ‘Okay, you’re right.’”