Wayne Gretzky is thought by many to have been hockey’s greatest player of all time. Now, through a special video called The Autograph, Tim Hortons Restaurants chain is telling the story of how a young Gretzky was inspired by hockey great Tim Horton.
Horton, of course, was not just a star player. He was the co-founder of the popular Tim Hortons coffee and donuts chain that bears his name today. It was through his business that he actually met a young Wayne Gretzky.
The story goes that Gretzky attended an autograph signing of Horton’s at one of his stores back in 1968 (Horton’s restaurant business first began in 1964). Wayne was headed to the autograph signing but realized he didn’t have anything for Horton to sign. So he settled for a napkin. On it, Horton signed his autograph to Wayne, adding the inscription, ‘Best Wishes.’ The actual napkin stayed in Wayne’s family and his father still has it to this day.
The restaurant chain heard about the story and decided to make the video.
“To us, the story of Tim Horton and a young Wayne is extraordinary – when I heard it, I knew it was a beautiful and touching story,” says Paloma Azulay, Chief Marketing Officer, Tim Hortons. “The true story about the meeting between a Canadian hockey icon and a young boy who we would one day call The Great One was the start of something bigger than great – it was the start of something legendary. We’re so proud to have played a small part in such an important moment in hockey, and Canadian, history. We’re excited to share this story with a generation of Canadians who have been inspired by Wayne.”
Here’s the video.
The advertisement was produced by GUT with a recreated 1960s Tim Hortons restaurant. The video was well hyped with more than 68,000 Canadian boys auditioning for the role to play the younger Gretzky.
Just as young players looked up to Gretzky, he says he looked up to Horton.
“When I was a young boy, I looked up to Tim Horton. He was an icon – one of the best Canadian hockey players of his generation. I would watch him play on TV and every night I went to bed thinking about being like him and playing hockey on TV,” says Wayne. “There have been many moments in my career that I will never forget, but the moment I met Tim in that restaurant, and he signed that napkin for me, it inspired me to believe that I could become a professional hockey player like him.”
The video will air on television during the IIHF Ice Hockey World Junior Championships this month. It’s all part of a promotion with Gretzky and the restaurant chain that will go beyond that date. On January 15, diners at the chain will be able to buy special tumblers featuring Gretzky and his signature. The tumblers will be sold for $17.99 each.