Some kids hope to get a car on their 18th birthday.
Wayne Gretzky got a ten-year contract.
Now, one of the surviving copies of that historic document, bearing one of his earliest pro signatures, is up for auction.
Heritage Auctions is offering the multi-signed pact from January 1979 in its current auction where it’s expected to sell for $400,000 or more.
Hockey’s budding star and two other players had flown to Edmonton after playing eight games with the floundering Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association. Racers owner Nelson Skalbania was losing about $40,000 a game and opted to sell Gretzky, forward Peter Driscoll and goalie Eddie Mio to a league rival. Gretzky signed it on Jan. 26, 1979, the day he turned 18. His father, Walter, signed as a witness.
The ten-year, $3 million (Canadian) contract was the longest in hockey history to that point. Gretzky had originally signed with the the WHA at age 17 since the NHL had a rule in place that teams could not sign players until their 20th birthday.
The primary section of the contract is four pages long but there’s also a three-page addendum outlining the young Gretzky’s compensation and photocopies. Gretzky’s signatures are accompanied by 15 sections that are initialed.
Gretzky went on to win the league’s rookie of the year in 1979, helping the Oilers win the division. He would stay with the Oilers through 1988, winning four Stanley Cup championships and eight straight Hart Trophies as the NHL’s MVP after the Oilers and three other teams joined the more established league.
The contract is one of three major Gretzky lots in the auction. A collection of ticket stubs from his earliest pro games are also on the block.
The group includes PSA authenticated stubs from Gretzky’s preseason and regular season debuts with the Racers and the game in which he scored his first professional goals are part of a group set to be offered.
The lot includes a the only surviving stub in PSA’s Population Report from the September 23, 1978 Blue vs. White Intra-Squad game in which Gretzky competed as a professional for the first time and another from his preseason debut on Oct. 6, 1978 and one of two graded stubs from his regular season pro debut a little more than a week later.
The lot of six stubs carries a $150,000 presale estimate.
Also on the block is a program signed by Gretzky as an 11-year-old and his idol, Gordie Howe. The 24-page publication dates to an event in Gretzky’s hometown of Brantford, ON called “Great Men of Sports.”
Gretzky was a young hockey prodigy with over 700 goals to his credit while playing against older competition. Gretzky, NFL quarterback Joe Theismann and former pitcher Sal Maglie were among others in attendance and also added their signatures.
The 5×8″ program could bring $10,000 or more.
Bidding in the three-session auction is scheduled to close Nov. 17-19.