It's not every day that I add a vintage hockey card to my collection, not to mention one featuring Wayne Gretzky. But after hearing the story that follows this 1981-1982 Gretzky card, I just had to snag one of these promotional cards for my collection.
But why all the mystery? Let me explain.
During a 4-year run in the 1980's, Red Rooster, a chain of Canadian convenience stores, created a yearly Edmonton Oilers promotional team set of hockey cards in order to give to customers. During the 1981-1982 season, these cards were all set to be issued to the public once again, all except for one very important element... Wayne Gretzky's portrait photograph.
The original versions of these Red Rooster Gretzky cards featured Wayne sporting very long, unkept hair. After the 1st headshot photo was taken and the cards were printed, Gretzky saw the image and wanted the cards destroyed in order to keep his "clean" image in front of the public eye. Once the order was given, most of the cards were destroyed, along with the one of a kind printing plates used to display the image on cards.
Before anyone thinks Gretzky was being rude during this exchange with Red Rooster's Marketing Director at the time, he was not. It was more of a "Could you please do that? We can retake the photo if you like" type of thing. I beleive his agent and/or camp could have had an influence in this decision as well. Either way, the 1st version of card was scrapped and Gretzky was able to retake the photo after cutting his hair to produce the widely used Red Rooster card image that can be found today.
So what happened to those Long-Haired cards of The Great One?
While most were destroyed at Gretzky's request, it is believed that under 1,000 copies of that card still exist, as singles and sheets of the unreleased cards were given to Red Rooster employees at the time as a keepsake. While a good few have surfaced on the secondary market over the past 40 years, those 1st versions featuring the original headshot are notoriously rare and will fetch hundreds of dollars for even a raw, ungraded copy.
My personal copy of one of the infamous 1981-82 Red Rooster Wayne Gretzky promotional card. This card's photo redo was the result of Gretzky wanting to keep his public image intact since these cards were released across Canada for a promotional release using up-close headshots of Edmonton Oilers players.
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Author - Aaron
I've been collecting Hockey cards since the late 90's. Mainly the goalies since 2005. I also Co-Host a Hockey Card Podcast.
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