Wayne Gretzky will be the face of the NHL’s Centennial celebration, and the league announced documentaries, fan events and a gala for the greatest players in NHL history.
What better way for the NHL to celebrate its 100th season than by being represented by No. 99?
On Tuesday, the NHL officially announced its plans for the league’s Centennial celebration and unveiled Wayne Gretzky as the official ambassador for the landmark year. Gretzky, the most decorated player in the history of the league, will team up with the NHL to make appearances throughout the year at various events put on by the league, and he’s likely to stand atop the list of the 100 greatest players of all-time, which the NHL is set to release during the all-star weekend in Los Angeles in January.
“There’s simply no way to measure his intangible contribution to our league and our sport,” commissioner Gary Bettman said at the official Centennial season announcement Tuesday. “His creativity and skill changed the way our game is played, his arrival in Edmonton changed the course of the Oilers’ future, his arrival in California changed our league. He made it cool to play hockey in warmer climates.”
In a release, Gretzky said he was honored by his selection as the league’s ambassador for the event, adding that he continues to be one of the game’s biggest fans and that he has “long revered the history of our game and the players, coaches and executives who built the league before I was fortunate enough to enter it.”
"As I've said countless times,” Gretzky continued. “I owe just about everything I now have in my life to the game of hockey and the National Hockey League. And I am thrilled to spend the next year celebrating its past, present and future with hockey fans around the world.”
Though Gretzky will be the major face of the Centennial celebration, his inclusion is only one part of what the league has planned.
Prior to the formal announcement of all the celebrations, the league had announced the Centennial Classic, a Jan. 1 outdoor game pitting the Maple Leafs against the Detroit Red Wings at Toronto’s BMO Field, Winter Classic game in St. Louis between the Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, as well as the Stadium Series tilt that will see the Philadelphia Flyers visit the Pittsburgh Penguins.
One interesting note from the NHL’s video package detailing the celebrations are two events slated for early in the 2017-18 campaign. The first is set to take place in Montreal on Nov. 26, which is the celebration of the founding of the league, and the other is a game in Ottawa on Dec. 19 to mark 100 years since the playing of the very first NHL game.
According to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie, the November contest in Montreal could potentially be an outdoor game. Lavoie said the NHL couldn’t guarantee an outdoor contest and is only exploring the possibility at this time. As for the game in Ottawa, there has been a long-rumored attempt by the league and Senators to secure a game on Parliament Hill, and a shot of the Peace Tower is included in the video package.
In addition to the outdoor games — both confirmed and potential — the league announced the following on Tuesday:
The NHL Centennial Truck Tour, Jan. - Dec. 2017: The Truck Tour, which opens up Jan. 1 in Toronto as part of the Centennial Classic, consists of a 53-foot mobile museum, housing displays, memorabilia and video content that will be available to fans in all 30 NHL cities, as well as making its way to other communities along the way. In addition to the museum, a second truck will house a screen for viewing parties and appearances by players, and a synthetic rink will go along for the ride.
Rose Parade float, Jan. 2, 2017: Together with the Los Angeles Kings, who are one of four teams celebrating 50 seasons in the NHL, the league will have a float in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade.
100 Greatest NHL Players and Gala, beginning Jan. 1 2017: As part of the Centennial Classic celebration, which will help kick off the year’s worth of events, the league will begin unveiling its list of the 100 Greatest Players, as judged by a select panel that includes executives, alumni and media members. The list will be completed during all-star weekend in Los Angeles.
Stanley Cup celebrations, March 15-18, 2017: Special events in Ottawa will pay tribute to the Stanley Cup to celebrate the trophy’s 125th anniversary.
Time Capsule and 100 Iconic Moments: Beginning Jan. 1, the league’s Time Capsule will celebrate milestones from the history of the game, and as the start of the 2017-18 season nears, the league will unveil its list of the most iconic moments.
Documentaries: Two documentaries will be released throughout 2017. The first, celebrating the Stanley Cup, will be released in time for the Stanley Cup celebrations in Ottawa and be available before the start of the 2016-17 post-season. The second documentary, slated for a November 2017 release, will be “the ultimate history of the NHL.” The November documentary will be produced by “four well-known executive producers,” each of whom will tackle a different part of history.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.