Wayne Gretzky, then as an L.A. Kings player, celebrates as he scores his 1,851st point, breaking Gordie Howe's record. He scored on Edmonton Oilers goalie Bill Ranford, with Jari Kurri in on the play too late.
Photograph by: Greg Southam, Edmonton Journal
You can buy one for about $2 at any sports store, but a hockey puck that made history with Wayne Gretzky in 1989 has been sold at auction for more than $50,000.
The six-ounce slab of rubber, squirrelled away for 22 years by a retired NHL timekeeper, was the puck Gretzky lifted past a sprawled goaltender at Edmonton's Northlands Coliseum on Oct. 15, 1989, to surpass hockey legend Gordie Howe's all-time scoring record of 1,850 points.
An online auction held by the Montreal-area sports memorabilia dealer Classic Auctions ended earlier this week with a top bid of $48,050 for the milestone puck. A buyer's premium will push the final price well past $50,000.
Company president Marc Juteau said the puck's purchaser, a Canadian collector, asked not to be identified.
Gretzky was playing for the Los Angeles Kings when he backhanded the puck past Edmonton Oilers goalie Bill Ranford to break the record set by Saskatchewan-born Howe, the legendary "Mr. Hockey" who played with the Detroit Red Wings from 1946 to 1971.
"The milestone moment marks, without a doubt, one of the most unobtainable accomplishments in the history of the game," the auction firm stated ahead of the sale, adding that Gretzky "would go on to post an incredible total of 2,857 regular season points, a feat which will never be surpassed."
For the Brantford, Ont.-born Gretzky, scoring point No. 1,851 as a visitor to Northlands — the scene of so many of The Great One's triumphs during his 10-year career with the Oilers — was a fitting achievement.
The historic point came on a last- minute goal by Gretzky that pulled the Kings into a 4-4 tie with his former club, setting the stage for No. 99's overtime winner.
A linesman fished the record-breaking puck from the Oilers' net and delivered it to the scorekeepers' box. There, Northlands timekeeper Don Whidden marked the puck with a piece of tape and placed it in his briefcase for safekeeping.
He later set aside several other pucks used during the historic game, labelling each with details about Gretzky's big night while identifying the 1,851st-point puck with the words: "This one is the real one."
Then, he told Postmedia News earlier this month, he pretty much forgot about it.
"We all knew Wayne was going to go on and set countless numbers of records," Whidden said, adding that he assumed the puck was merely one of dozens upon dozens linked to notable moments in Gretzky's career.
The 1989 Gretzky puck, emblazoned with the Oilers' team logo and the NHL crest, "basically got lost in the shuffle," Whidden said. "But this is the puck he set the record with, I can guarantee it."
Whidden recently sold the puck to a souvenir collector for a small sum. That collector then put the puck up for auction.
"It was never my intention to profit from the puck," Whidden said. "I'm probably a bit naive."
Souvenirs associated with Howe, who turned 83 on Thursday, command huge prices at auction, too.
A No. 9 Red Wings sweater he wore during his last season in the NHL sold for more than $30,000 in the Classic Auctions sale.
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