It was only there temporarily. Aron Gratias, an avid fan and collector of Wayne Gretzky and other hockey memorabilia was moving, so he rented a storage unit in a rural area of north central Saskatchewan and locked up his jerseys, cards, photos, sticks and other items for the winter.
At some point over the last couple of months, someone broke in and stole everything. Now, he’s hoping police, fans and collectors might be able to track it down.
Gratias says someone broke open the locks on the unit and carted away 19 Gretzky signed jerseys, over 2,000 Gretzky trading cards including a PSA 8 copy of his 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee rookie card. Also stolen were about 8,000 other hockey cards, numerous Gretzky autographed sticks and pucks—some of which were in display cases–a large Gretzky painting, two 1979 Gretzky Mattel dolls in the original boxes and more. Many of the signed items were personalized from Gretzky to Gratias and his family.
“My biggest fear is that whoever has my stuff is scared because they know they won’t be able to push the stuff because it is just too big of a collection and there’s awareness now,” Gratias told a local media outlet. “I just don’t want them throwing them in a dumpster or taking it to a landfill.
Gratias says he’s been collecting for 40 years. He had photos of the collection when it was on display at his former home.
“I grew up in the Oilers dynasty era watching Gretzky and the Oilers into the early 80s and all of the Stanley Cup runs and it really drove my passion for collecting,” Gratias said. “On weekends, I’d run to the corner store with my allowance for O-Pee-Chee hockey cards with a pack of gum and that collection grew into my teens.”
The break-in happened near the small community of Shellbrook, Saskatchewan, about an hour and a half north of Saskatoon. The thief or thieves had to shovel their way through snow to access the storage facility, then cut through locks to access it. The 40-foot storage container held numerous household items, some of value, that weren’t taken, leading to the belief that the collection was targeted.
“This collection was worth way more than just money to me,” Gratias wrote in a Facebook post. “it was priceless and a true passion, it was never meant to be sold, it was meant to be passed down to generations and future generations and I feel bad for my children, it was theirs.”