On February 7, 1990, a bashful Wayne Gretzky did an interview with CBC’s Valerie Pringle.
Gretzky had just signed a nine-year, $30 million extension with the Los Angeles Kings, but found himself defending how much money was making. In his first full season with the Kings, Gretzky scored 54 goals and tallied 168 points. The new contract made Gretzky the highest paid player in hockey and one of the highest paid athletes in sports.
The relevant transcript is below.
Wayne Gretzky is with us from the Saddledome. Hi, Wayne.
Wayne Gretzky: How are you doing, Joyce?
I’m well. You just signed a new contract last week: 30 million dollars over 9 years, which makes you about the highest paid athlete. And they had to shove this down your throat?
Wayne Gretzky: Well basically, I think that as a professional athlete that I’m very well paid. I’m very happy where I’m playing. I didn’t want to rock the boat. Mr. McNall (Bruce McNall) the owner of the Kings has become a pretty good friend of mine and my wife’s. By no means was I holding a gun to his head and demanding something that was a change. I was very happy with it. He just insisted on it. What can I say? I’m very happy to be a LA King and I’m very excited to play for this man.
As you say, what else can you say? I know you mean it. Are you comfortable with that amount of money – being the highest paid athlete?
Wayne Gretzky: [uncomfortable laugh] Well, I think over my career I’ve worked very hard. If that’s the going rate of a hockey player and athlete, I’m not going to argue with it. It’s gotten to a point where salaries have escalated so high we don’t know where they’re going to end – if they’re ever going to end. Mario’s contract is up in four years and at that time he’ll probably sign for four or five million dollars a year, which can only help the rest of the players in the National Hockey League.
What do you do with all this money? Your contract, the marketing arrangements, you have a biography coming out with a $500,000 advance, electronic hockey games… what do you do with it all?
Wayne Gretzky: For myself, I think my parents worked very hard. Everything they had in life they gave to me. Whatever I can do to help with my parents and my family, I try to do. Of course the biggest thing for me, I’d like to have my children when they grow up basically to have it. I’m working for my wife and kids now. That’s what life is all about. I enjoy myself. I have a couple cars. Hey, I’m 29-years-old now and I like to have a little bit of fun myself also.
You could buy Brantford. A theme park.
Wayne Gretzky: No, I tried to buy a Junior A hockey team in Brantford, but they wouldn’t let me have one.
Wayne Gretzky: You’d have to ask the Ontario Hockey League about that.
On this day in 1990, @WayneGretzky talked to @CBC's Midday. Watch for his nervous laugh when he gets asked about how much money he makes. Full interview here: https://t.co/1BTXHTt6cV #WaybackWednesday pic.twitter.com/vRiMX8GNUR
— CBC Digital Archives (@cbc_archives) February 7, 2018
Here are a few other essential Gretzky videos from the CBC’s amazing digital archive.
At 16, Wayne Gretzky is a legitimate celebrity. As shown in this 1977 CBC Television clip, news of his astounding talent is drawing record crowds. Legions of adoring fans greet him at hockey rinks, airports and even on the streets. Gretzky is the main attraction for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, one of the top teams in the Ontario Hockey Association.
Headline photo via CBC
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