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Some Tips For No. 99 On Turning 50

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

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Dear Wayne:

You dog. Why didn’t you tell me you were turning 50 on Wednesday?

It’s my fault. I’m the one who lost touch. I don’t know about you, but my life has become even busier since our orbits intersected at the NHL Entry Draft in the summer of 1985 (see photo).

I have broached the 50-mark and then one. I don’t just look a lot older than you; I am a lot older than you.

And while you have struggled a bit to remain in the public eye (come on, admit it, big guy), I have been working here at and enjoying all the recognition and perks that come with the job.

And so it is with a genuine goodwill that I offer these helpful hints. Fifty is uncharted territory for you, or at least 50 years is. Consider me the older brother you never knew you ever had.
Remember Wayne, be coachable.

1. Sell the place in Phoenix. It’s never going to work out for you out there. They’ve moved on. You should too.

2. Get back into lunchbuckets and thermoses or is that thermo. There was a time you were on every lunchbucket and thermos across the country. Every kid I knew had a Wayne Gretzky lunchbox. This is a market worth revisiting.

3. Time to sexy up the image a bit. Fidelity and life as a family man might play here in Canada, but if you want to boost your appeal to the kids you need a photo with one of those Kardashian sisters. Hot tomatoes. Janet will understand. It’s show-biz, Babe.

4. Get Walter six minutes to speak his mind in the first intermission of every Leafs game. They will build statues of him.

5. Get big, buddy. The world remembers you as a skinny kid who had to tuck in his shirt so it would not hit his knees.  The Governor has been in a dozen more action films than you and he has an accent. Work out like Stallone and then make out like a bandit. Look at Helen Mirren, Bruce Wills, Sly, and John Malkovich. Not Mahovlich, Malkovich.  For an action hero in 2011, you’re actually a little young.

6. Wayne, when you turn 50 you need to make difficult financial decision. You can no longer afford Dave Semenko and Marty McSorley as your personal bodyguards. One of them has to go. I’m just looking out for you.

7. Start tweetin’. Don’t ask me to explain it, just start doing it. I’ll be right behind you.

8. Wayne, I imagine that it’s not easy being you. You’ve been retired for coming up on a dozen seasons and have handled every interaction with grace and kindness. You have brought what Canadians see as our best qualities - competitiveness mixed with fair play, greatness always tempered by humility - to the world. You have exhausted several lifetimes’ worth of class so I offer you, my big-hearted friend, the chance to come to the dark side. Wayne, take my place here. Be a media guy. Affix blame, speculate, be petty. I’ve got to tell you, it feels great. I will be your emissary to the world of philanthropy and gracious behaviour. We’ll see who cracks first. This doesn’t extend to our wives, by the way. You married a Hollywood starlet. Mine is way, way more maintenance than that.

9. I would personally love to read a book on your leadership tactics. Forget Joe Torre’s ruminations from the dugout. Wayne,  tell them why you passed to Mario instead of Larry Murphy in the Canada Cup.

10. Don’t worry if you forget stuff. Don’t look at the back of your head or the front of your hands. Don’t ever be satisfied with what you’ve done or what you know. Be more than satisfied with what you have. Take that advice, Kid,  you’ll be good for 50 more before you’re through.


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