Bronzesmith gives Gretzky statue a facelift before move to new arena
Wayne Gretzky was a larger-than-life presence on the ice when he played for the Edmonton Oilers. So it’s only fitting that his 430-kilogram likeness joined him on the day he made a triumphant return to the team.
The Great One is taking on a new role as partner and vice-chairman of Oilers Entertainment Group. The team made the announcement on Wednesday at an unveiling of the refurbished iconic Gretzky statue at the team's new arena, Rogers Place.
Gretzky spent much of his Hall of Fame career in Edmonton, leading the Oilers to four Stanley Cup titles in the 1980s.
The nine feet two inches tall bronze Gretzky statue has held the Stanley Cup over its head for the past 27 years at the team’s former home at Rexall Place -- posing for photos with adoring fans from atop a granite pedestal.
While Gretzky himself donned a black suit for the occasion, the Number 99 statue took a lot more time and effort to get ready -- a job that fell to Don Begg who worked on casting the statue back in 1989, after it was sculpted by artist John Weaver.
Begg jumped at the opportunity to refurbish one of his most popular works for the occasion.
“It was in great shape when we picked him up at Rexall Place,” he told CTV News Channel. “We took him down, took him back to our shop, gave him a coat of wax, and he was ready to come to his new home.”
Begg has created thousands of statues since opening his foundry in 1970. He and his crew count the Gretzky bronze among the most memorable.
Freeing the statue from its placement after nearly three decades wasn’t easy. Begg had to cut into its granite base and remove the old bolts that held it in place. Of course, a crowd of Oilers fans gathered to give the statue a proper send-off as it was loaded into Begg’s truck in August.
The crew was careful not to damage the prized monument, but Begg says the most difficult part was saying goodbye to his work of art when it was time to install it at Rogers Place.
“It was fantastic,” he said. “It was great to have him there for a couple of months.”
Begg says Gretzky was excited to see the statue at the unveiling.
“He was really plowed to see it in the new location,” he said. “It’s been a long time since he looked that age.”
While the details of Gretzky's new role with the Oilers have not been finalized, Begg told CTV Calgary in August that the statue will stand long after he retires.
“He’ll last thousands of years after we’re long gone.”
With files from The Canadian Press