Wayne Gretzky celebrates hockey legend Tim Horton 50 years after they met

As the hockey season kicks into high gear, Canadian restaurant chain Tim Hortons is celebrating the sport that launched its existence with its biggest star.

A chance meeting in 1968 between a young Wayne Gretzky and hockey legend Tim Horton at a restaurant in Brantford, Ontario changed Gretzky’s life, and Canada’s hockey history. Gretzky’s mother, Phyllis, took him to meet Horton at a local restaurant opening.

The meeting ignited Wayne’s passion for hockey and inspired him to become a professional hockey player.

That meeting is recalled in a partnership with The Great One and Tim Hortons. ‘The Autograph tells the true story of how a young Gretzky visited a newly opened Tim Hortons to meet his hockey hero – Horton. He realized he forgot to bring something to get signed and a quick-thinking Horton grabbed a napkin and wrote 'Wayne, Best Wishes, Tim Horton'.

“When I was a young boy, I looked up to Tim Horton. He was an icon – one of the best Canadian hockey players of his generation,” said Gretzky in a release. “I would watch him play on TV and every night I went to bed thinking about being like him and playing hockey on TV.

"There have been many moments in my career that I will never forget, but the moment I met Tim in that restaurant and he signed that napkin for me, it inspired me to believe that I could become a professional hockey player like him.”

Walter Gretzky, Wayne’s father, has kept the autographed napkin for more than 50 years because it meant so much to his son. Walter, the ultimate hockey dad, is featured in the spot alongside Wayne, sharing the napkin he has kept for over five decades.

“To us, the story of Tim Horton and a young Wayne is extraordinary – when I heard it, I knew it was a beautiful and touching story,” said Paloma Azulay, chief marketing officer, Tim Hortons. “The true story about the meeting between a Canadian hockey icon and a young boy who we would one day call The Great One was the start of something bigger than great – it was the start of something legendary.

"We’re so proud to have played a small part in such an important moment in hockey, and Canadian, history. We’re excited to share this story with a generation of Canadians who have been inspired by Wayne.”

On 15 January, guests can find limited-edition tumblers featuring The Great One’s autograph and his iconic number 99 at participating Tim Hortons Restaurants across Canada.

The Autograph was developed by creative agency Gut with Canadian directors Jon and Torey leading the creative vision from behind the camera. To create the spot, the team recreated a 1960s Tim Hortons restaurant, accurately replicating every detail from the sign outside to the napkins used at the time.

In preparation for the shoot, it became clear that playing the role of young Wayne Gretzky was every young Canadian actor’s dream – more than 68,000 Canadian boys auditioned for the role.

Overall Rating
5/5 Vote

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.