By Barry Janoff
October 12, 2016: Last month, Wayne Gretzky, regarded as the greatest player in the history of the NHL, was named ambassador for the league’s 100th anniversary celebration, which will take place this season.
Now, he is rebuilding ties at the scene of his greatest exploits, joining the Edmonton Oilers nearly 30 years after they traded him to the Los Angeles Kings, as a partner and vice-chairman for the Oilers Entertainment Group.
Gretzky, 55, will work with team majority owner Daryl Katz and team president Bob Nicholson "on all aspects of OEG business."
This marks Gretzky’s first official role with an NHL team since 2009, when he was part-owner, coach and head of hockey operations for the Phoenix Coyotes.
"Over the past few years I’ve had opportunities to be involved in the NHL but I chose to step back and take my time," said Gretzky. "(But) when Daryl and I met a several months ago and talked about coming back to Edmonton we felt that this was a great opportunity for me to get back into the game.
"You know you are in the right partnership when you do a handshake (to confirm the) deal. Pretty much the completion of our partnership was a handshake (with Katz)," said Gretzky.
Gretzky played for the Oilers from 1979-88, leading the team to Stanley Cup titles in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988.
The team also won the Stanley Cup in 1990.
"I’m honored to join Daryl, Bob and the exceptional group of people at OEG," said Gretzky. "Edmonton is a city I love and it has been so good to me and my family. Daryl is building something special with OEG and I’m really excited about being involved with the organization, not just for one year but for years to come."
The Oilers made the move as they unveiled a refurbished stature of Gretzky in front of their new arena, Rogers Place, which had been located in front of the team’s previous home venue, Rexall Place. OEG also unveiled the Oliers Hall of Fame in Rogers Place, loaded with Gretzky memorabilia.
It also came a day after Gretzky opened the Wayne Gretzky Wine & Whisky Bar in Edmonton Airport.
Gretzky and ex-Oilers teammate Mark Messier were honored prior to the first game in Roger Place, wearing their former Edmonton jerseys and skating on the ice last night, which ended when they met at center ice and raised their hockey sticks.
"As we open a new home for the Edmonton Oilers, I’m pleased to announce that Wayne Gretzky will be officially rejoining the Edmonton Oilers family as a partner and vice-chairman for Oilers Entertainment Group," said Katz during the media conference in Rogers Place. "This is a day that has been a long time coming.
"The Oilers family is honored to welcome Wayne back in an official role with an organization where his legendary career began. He will have a hand in helping both the Oilers and the city of Edmonton return to a place of prominence," said Katz.
He was traded to the Kings in 1988, playing there into the 1995-96 season, when he was traded to the St. Louis Blues. He finished his career with the New York Rangers (1996-99).
In 2000, he acquired a 10% stake in the Phoenix Coyotes, remaining with the franchise through 2009.
Among the numerous NHL records he currently holds are most career points (2,857), goals (894), assists (1,963) and goals in a season (92).
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999.
As part of the NHL’s centennial celebration, Gretzky will be involved in numerous multi-platform events, marketing and activation, including All-Star Game weekend in Los Angeles.
"This organization has been put into place over the past few years and it’s a machine that’s headed in the right direction," said Gretzky. "It’s a group that is very capable of winning the Stanley Cup and hopefully I’m part of that group in the future."
With Gretzky At Center, NHL Plans 100th Anniversary
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