Photo credit: Geoff Burke
The Washington Capitals lost to the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 at Verizon Center on Friday. Despite the loss, Caps fans in attendance got a real treat; they were in the presence of The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.
Gretzky was a guest of Ted Leonsis, watching the game in the owner’s box. CSN was the first outlet to point out that Gretzky was in attendance, cutting to a shot of him during the first period. As word spread among fans in Verizon Center, a throng of people started amassing aroud the box.
Gretzky, who is constantly harangued for autographs and photos, signed for fans during most of the intermission. He also took photos. And he looked thrilled doing so.
During the third period, Caps PA Announcer Wes Johnson officially announced that Gretzky was in the house. The Great One received a standing ovation, delaying the game for a minute.
RMNB readers have shared with us their photos and stories of meeting 99. (Make sure to read what James wrote. Apparently Gretzky signed a beer can. I would pay unlimited monies to have this.)
Tonight we got some amazing seats thanks to my wife’s boss (doctor) who has season tickets in section 101. He couldn’t sell them and knew my wife and I are huge Caps fans, so he offered them to her and we obviously accepted. He said the only catch was that the Caps had to win (#jinx) she agreed to the deal, and off we went from Damascus around 5:50.
We get there about 5 minutes into the game and as we were walking by the entrance to the suite right behind our section I noticed a rather large crowd of giant men in black suits. Not really caring what big wig Ted was entertaining that night as we were already late, I didn’t give it another thought and we ran to our seats and got settled in just in time to see the Habs score their first goal. We all know how the first period went, thankfully ending in a Ovi goal which kept my hopes alive.
The second period came and went and as we were waiting for the third to start back up we heard a couple in front of us who had just come back from getting a refill on their beverages say that Wayne Gretzky was in Ted’s box which just so happened to be the one right behind us. To my surprise as I turned around, Wayne Gretzky was standing not 30 feet away from me saying hi, shaking hands and doing autographs for the few of us who hadn’t gone to get another beer to get through this game. I was awestruck. Why in the world is he here? What do I do? Did I wash my hands after I went to the bathroom? (The answer is yes if you were curious).
After a few moments of staring and thinking, I knew what I needed to do thanks to some reminding by my wife. I proceeded to remove my #22 Knuble jersey and walked right up to the edge of the box, only a few feet away from the greatest hockey player of all time, who was making his way towards me. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy going and friendly he was to all of us normal people, posing for pictures and taking time to just say hi to those down the line but the time was coming for my chance. He signed a Molson Beer can for the guys next to me, which I though was hilarious and ironic and would be a great memento to have on your desk or something, looked at me and said “Hello” and I was done. Anything witty that I thought I was going to say was out the door and I remember reaching out my hand, shaking his and saying “Great having you here in Washington” & “Thank you” as he took my Knuble jersey and signed it and moved on.
I was on cloud 9. Walked back to my seat and sat there soaking in what just happened and thinking up ideas about ways to get free beer with the Molson guys who were sitting behind me with their new signed trinket and me with my one of a kind Knuble Jersey with Wayne Gretzky’s John Hancock on the front.
A normally upsetting loss turned into a great memory which I will look back upon and be amazed at. I attached some of the less crappy pictures I got but still happy to have a reminder of the memory!
My husband & I were sitting in our usual seats -south of the press box, left of Horn Guy, and in the nose bleed section at Verizon Center. I was doing my normal scanning the arena with my binoculars, watching the Caps game as my guts were being wrenched out again-being a goal down already…when I spotted him.
I turned to my husband and said “Wayne Gretzky is sitting next to Ted Leonsis in the owners box”. Its just the start of the first period and it’s not like I see him every day so I’m probably just wishful thinking..
My husband Howard looks through the binoculars after I shove them to him. I have only seen Mr. Gretzky out of his hockey uniform once before. It was at the NHL Awards After Party in Vancouver in 2006 but I couldn’t get close enough to him for an autograph. “Yeah”, he says, “it looks like him” as he handed back the binoculars very nonchalantly. I sure would love to get his auto fell on deaf ears. Then I got back to watching the game.
During the 1st intermission I thought about all the Gretzky memorabilia I have at home..signed pucks, photos, hockey cards, etc. But never one in person. It would sure mean the world to me to get his auto I thought to myself.
Now we are down two goals and its the 2nd intermission and I suddenly see Wayne stand up & move to the side of the owner’s box signing autographs for fans. Oh No!!! I’m way up here and he’s way down there and the intermission is almost over. It will take me forever to get down there. And my walker won’t go down the stairs where he’s at. I decided I have to try anyway-he’s just too close (in Verizon Center) to at least not try.
So off I went. Half way around the 4th floor to get to the Elevator, down to the first level, through Administrative entrance, half way around the arena again, whew I made it to the outside of the Owner’s Box. But now the 3rd period has started. Now he will be busy watching the game-which is what I should be doing-instead of being told by the usher that I can’t go in and he won’t be coming out either. Apparently he will leave directly through the Owner’s Box so not to be mobbed. I can’t really blame him. He looked mobbed earlier and that was the view from four stories up. I felt dejected…once again so close.
So I stood watching the game on a screen on the concourse figuring the game will be over before I can amble all the way back upstairs. Then suddenly I saw four men walk out of the suite. It’s him, it’s him..run! Me & my walker flew..man he IS fast! I knew I couldn’t catch him so I just yelled out, “Wayne”!!! The other three men kept walking a few more steps but do you know what Wayne did? He stopped! He turned all the way around and looked me straight in the eye as I huffed & puffed and almost didn’t stop my walker in time not to hit him. I said “Can you sign just one more autograph? ” I held out my Sharpie half expecting him to say no and walk away since he was halfway between where he came from and the F St doors.
But he smiled and said sure as I handed him the pen. I held out the jersey I was wearing so he didn’t have to write on an unmentionable part of my body. (It would be worth it I had decided). He took his time and signed the front so nice-not a scribble you get from some hockey players. I can’t begin to explain how much it meant to me. As he finished signing other fans saw him and ran up-beginning of another mob scene. I think he took a photo with someone after me then all four of them left. I didn’t get a picture with him but I will never forget the experience. He was so great…it’s no wonder he’s known as “The Great One”…he really is!!!
Photo credit: @mkirilenko
It was amazing to see an athlete of that stature and even more so to talk to him and get a signature. It is all still surreal to me!
I’m still in shock that I was able to meet him! My name is Michelle and I’m the one in the Caps hoodie, my sister is Charlene and she is in the caps shirt with black fleece jacket. Here is a paragraph about our experience in meeting Wayne Gretzky:
During the 2nd intermission my sister and I were sitting at our seats in section 109 and she noticed a commotion going on across the arena. I began to research on Twitter to try and find out what’s going on over there. We find that Wayne Gretzky is at Verizon Center. A little before the start of the 3rd period, I have the brilliant idea to wait outside the suite, just to catch a glimpse of him coming out. We are watching the game on the screen, just outside of the suite and see Wayne being recognized on the jumbotron. After only a few minutes people start walking out of the suite and low and behold it’s Wayne Gretzky! He had about 4 people surrounding him as he was leaving and I didn’t really want to bother him. Then a woman stops him for an autograph and he signs for her. As Wayne is finishing up with the autograph, my sister asks him for a picture and he takes a moment for her to get a picture with him. He then proceeds to leave and I ask him for a picture as well and he was gracious enough to turn around and take a picture with me.
I’ve met Wayne a few times. As a Canadian kid, growing up in Ontario, 99 was my hero. In 2007, I finally met him. I attending his Fantasy Camp in Phoenix. I not only met The Great One, I got to skate with him (and other retired pro hockey players). It was an amazing, five day event. A once-in-a-lifetime dream come true. The only thing was, that once you go once, it is so amazing that it becomes addictive. I went back again to this year’s camp, in January 2013. This time I not only got to play a game with Gretzky, I lucked out and he centered my line for an entire game. The highlight was going two-on-one with him (I think it was against Cujo, Curtis Joseph). It would have been better if I scored from his perfect pass (into the empty net, no less), but I shot it wide.
So I am sitting at the Caps game tonight when I get a text from my friend, Michael, who lives in Alberta, Canada. He was at this year’s Gretzky Fantasy Camp as well. He texted me: “Hey, Gretzky is at the Caps game tonight!” I thought he was kidding (I mean, what are the odds?) I sent a Facebook post to a friend, who confirmed it. I kind of lost track of the game at that point. I posted some Facebook posts to friends who have connections to Wayne and someone sent Wayne a text saying “Darren Kipfer who was at the Camp is at Verizon tonight. Can he stop by and say hi?” My wife, Amanda, and I walked over to Ted Leonsis’ box and as the second period ended, we walked down in front of the box and saw Wayne signing autographs. I asked someone in the box if Wayne’s manager (also named Darren) was there, that I know him as well. They said yes, and brought Darren back to me. He immediately recognized me from the Camp and we had a nice chat. I explained that we live here and just happened to be at the game tonight. Wayne came over and recognized me as well, we shook hands and chatted briefly.
I’ve met him a few times. It NEVER gets old. This was an amazing evening, despite the fact that the Caps lost. It’s always a thrill to see The Great One. And to chat with him briefly is the best buzz you’ll ever have.
Here’s a link to some pictures on my website from the Gretzky Camp.
[Editor’s note: It includes a pic with Paulina so you should probably click.]
I have been following hockey religiously for the past 4 years and watching since I was 11. While I was not watching hockey during Gretzky’s prime I still definitely look up to him and he is definitely one of the greatest players ever. When we saw the initial post on RMNB about Gretzky being at the game we flipped out, and stopped paying attention to the game (which if you ask my seat mates, rarely happens). We immediately began scanning the rink for Ted and Gretzky! Once I found him, without my glasses, I pointed and began to plot. My friend and I ran over to the section and went and sat down two rows in front of him, luckily we sat in seats of people that left. I took my phone out and made it seem like we were taking a typical selfie, like all girls in their 20s are constantly doing, so it wouldn’t be obvious, and I angled it and made the face I thought appropriate to the moment. You wouldn’t think sitting two rows away would be exciting but just to be in the presence of him was amazing. Hockey is definitely the best sport in the word!
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