The Great One commits to a decade of Edmonton Oilers service on his eighteenth birthday1979 Wayne Gretzky Multi-Signed Rookie WHA Player's Contract. The most significant document in the vast archives of the sport? Honestly, what could compare? The paperwork that delivered Boston Red Sox star Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees might be considered the baseball equivalent, and most experts agree that the million dollar price it garnered in a 2005 auction would be eclipsed if it were offered again today. Admittedly the six decade head start of the Ruth document over the presented lot factors into the value of the former, but it should also paint a pretty picture of the investment potential of this historic offering.
The fact that the presented contract was executed on Gretzky's eighteenth birthday, the very first hours of his official adulthood, should illustrate just how intently the Edmonton Oilers wished to secure the services of the young superstar. The Oilers brass had reason to be wary. As it became apparent that Gretzky's previous WHA team, the Indianapolis Racers, were drowning in red ink, their team owner Nelson Skalbania jockeyed for the best deal for the release of his golden boy. Gretzky, goalie Eddie Mio and forward Peter Driscoll were put on a private jet, not knowing where they would land and what team they would join. As the plane flew, Skalbania challenged Winnipeg Jets owner Michael Gobuty to a high-stakes game of backgammon, wagering Gretzky against a share of Jets ownership. Gobuty refused, and the plane landed in Edmonton.
After lengthy negotiation, the terms that are represented within this document were finalized, a deal which was both the longest in hockey history (at ten years) and the most lucrative (at $3 million). The standard "World Hockey Association Player's Contract" (the Oilers would merge with the NHL the following season) is comprised of four legal-size pages, signed at the close by Gretzky, general manager L.D. Gordon, and two witnesses. Gretzky and Gordon jointly initial fifteen separate clauses on these pages.
Following is a three-page "Addendum," detailing Gretzky's compensation over the coming years, and addressing various issues running the gamut from a company car to transferability of the contract. The same four gentlemen sign on the last page here as well. Finally, six photocopied pages appear, largely restating the terms of the addendum. Gretzky and Gordon's signatures on the final page are photocopied as well.
The final component of this thrilling and historic archive is the cover letter for the packet as it was sent by Gordon to Ron Ryan, Executive Director of the WHA, directing him to the contracts for Gretzky and a new teammate enclosed within. All documents display minor handling wear, but certainly nothing that could reasonably be characterized as damage. All ink is as bold as the date of application, a red letter day in the annals of hockey history if there ever was one. Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication.
1979 Wayne Gretzky Multi-Signed Rookie WHA Player's Contract.
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