MONTREAL – (From staff report and official news announcement) – Wayne Gretzky and the NHL are joining together to celebrate the League’s 100th anniversary with a year-long Centennial Celebration in 2017. Gretzky will serve as the official ambassador to the Centennial Celebration, which begins Jan. 1, 2017 in Toronto with the NHL Centennial Classic outdoor game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at BMO Field.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Gretzky said. “I’ve said this a million times that everything I have in my life is because of hockey and because of the National Hockey League. I happen to think it’s the greatest game in the world. It was kind to me my whole life. The game just gets better every year, so for me to be involved in just trying to help promote and sell our sport even more it’s a great thrill for me and an honor to be part of it.”
The Centennial Celebration will feature the unveiling of the all-time top 100 players in League history during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles from Jan. 27-29. The players on the all-time top 100 list who played all or most of their careers from 1917-67 will be honored at the Centennial Classic game.
The lists were voted on by members of the hockey community, including former and current executives, media members and NHL alumni.
“It’s like when you’re a kid and you collect hockey cards, you want to trade this guy for that guy, and everybody wanted to have the right cards,” Gretzky said to NHL.com. “Here we are now, we’re going to pick the top 100 players and it’s not going to be easy because there has been so many great players all the way back to the 30s and 40s and 50s. So obviously it’s a tough task for everyone. There are so many great young players today, there were great players when I played and before I played. So picking this is going to be difficult, but it’ll be a thrill for anyone who is part of that top 100.”
A celebration of the 100th anniversary of the League’s founding will take place in Montreal on Nov. 26. In addition, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first NHL games will take place in Ottawa on Dec. 19.
The League will unveil its most 100 most iconic moments in the fall, and each day during the calendar year the NHL will share various milestones of its 100 years online, in broadcasts and through social media as part of an NHL Time Capsule.
“I gravitate to the players themselves, the Rocket Richards, the [Jean] Beliveaus, the [Gordie] Howes, the [Bobby] Orrs, the [Guy] Lafleurs,” Gretzky told NHL.com. “And then the arenas; the old Montreal Forum, Maple Leaf Gardens, the old Chicago Stadium. I was lucky enough as a kid, I played one time in the Olympia. For me, the history of our sport is so dynamic. That’s one great thing we have. And the tradition, not only the Stanley Cup, but the Art Ross Trophy, the Hart Trophy, the Norris Trophy; those trophies are really amazing. If you get your name on that that’s pretty special. One thing we have in our sport is a tremendous foundation of history and that’s wonderful.”
“A century of great players, great plays and great moments deserves a year-long celebration, and we invite everyone to join our party in 2017,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement published via the NHL’s online site. “We are delighted that Wayne Gretzky — whose spectacular contributions on the ice matched his immeasurable graciousness and popularity off the ice — will serve as our Centennial’s official ambassador as we honor all the drama, suspense, excitement and memories that have thrilled the best fans in sports for generations.”