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A storybook ending to Gretzky statue at Rexall Place

by Cam Tait / Edmonton Oilers
Cooper Jones reads to the Wayne Gretzky statue. Photo provided.

When Cooper Jones graduated from his kindergarten class in Regina, his parents asked him to pick something special to do to celebrate the milestone.

Cooper’s father Tyler gave him a list of a few spots that he could add his own ideas to before making his big decision.

Cooper decided that his milestone would be best celebrated if he could read a book to retired Edmonton Oilers legend Wayne Gretzky. So the Jones family planned a trip to Edmonton from Saskatchewan’s capital city. They went straight to the northeast side of Rexall Place and Cooper sat himself right under the statue and read No. 99 a book.

That’s just one of countless stories Edmonton Oilers fans have shared about the Gretzky statue since news of its relocation downtown to Rogers Place. The iconic statue was removed by original statue bronzesmith Don Begg and his crew from Rexall Place, Thursday, to be taken for cleaning and refurbishment before appearing in its new, hallowed location on the 104 Avenue sidewalk outside of the Rogers Place Hall-of-Fame media room before next season.

Here are some of the other emails we received — and thank you for sharing your stories with us!

Melissa Blevins. Photo by Codie McLachlan / Getty Images.

Melissa Blevins – “I had purchased tickets to the last Oilers game in Rexall Place for my parents as a Christmas gift. After taking our pictures with the statue, we were eagerly on our way into the game when one of the photographers from the Oilers / NHL asked if he could use me for a photograph. I am the one featured in the photograph that the NHL posted on social media during the course of that evening!” 

Michelle Tadman – “I am from Chicago and knew I had to see Rexall Place before it closed.  In March of this year, I flew into Edmonton with tickets for both the Oilers and Edmonton Oil Kings. Without a personal history of the arena and the city, everything felt exciting and new. However, it was when I first saw the Wayne Gretzky statue, after walking around Rexall Place in anticipation of it, that I fully felt the importance and history of the arena and the Oilers.  

Mark Loewen and friend pose in front of the Gretzky statue. Photo provided.

“It was a fantastic statue to see...and to meet up with other Oilers fans who were excited to hear my story and tell me about their experience at Rexall. At the Wayne Gretzky statue, it felt like home.”

Brandon Schutte – “My memory of the Gretzky statue was whenever I traveled to Edmonton I stood right on it basically hanging off of its arm. Most recently, and I’d say the best time seeing it was on April 10, 2016, the day I had to fly back home after seeing the Farewell Rexall Place game. The last time ever seeing a game in that old barn and the last time seeing the Gretzky statue outside of Rexall Place.” 

Bill Kinch – “I grew up a huge Oilers fan in Nova Scotia with posters of (Wayne) Gretzky and (Jari) Kurri on my walls. In 2005, I moved to Morinville for work, and on my first trip into Edmonton the thing I was looking forward to the most was getting my picture taken at the Gretzky statue. I no longer have those pictures, but still remember how excited I was to be there.”

Mark Loewen – “I have been an Oilers fan my entire life. I started as a five- or six-year-old living in Edmonton. Of course it was the WHA team back then. Fast forward 42 years later, I have lived in B.C. for most of that time, but never relinquished being an Oilers fan despite all the Canuck pressures around me.

Kent Smyth and friend pose alongside the Gretzky statue. Photo provided.

“Last year, knowing it was the final year at Rexall Place I knew I had to make a trip to see a game in the old barn. My friend, a long-time Canucks fan, but also a fan of hockey itself appreciates the history behind Rexall Place, the Oilers and the Gretzky statue. The first thing we did when we got to the arena was search out the Gretzky statue and take photos of each other. 

“But then it occurred to me, Gretzky is a symbol of all hockey fans across Canada no matter what team we cheer for. So a photo with rival fans yet with a common admiration of Gretzky and what he means to hockey itself seemed in order.”

Kent Smyth – “As a long-time Oilers fan I made a two-and-a-half hour drive from Three Hills to see the statue at Rexall Place one last time before being moved. I was lucky enough to watch the glorious 2006 Stanley Cup run in that building.”

Send comments, suggestions, memories or just to say hi to ctait@edmontonoilers.com

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