So the Great One is endorsing skates with heated blades. They're supposed to reduce friction and make you skate faster on ice. "This will really take the sport of hockey to another level," crowed Wayner in a video pumping Tory Weber's invention recently. Kind of slippery, if you ask me.
What would we think, for example, if speed skating sensation Cindy Klassen showed up to the next Olympics or World Championships with a pair of similarly outfitted blades? Wouldn't that be cheating? Just asking. The NHL has been shrinking the size of pads and other equipment for years because they give goalies an unfair advantage. Why would they allow these new blades, then? Because Gretz, the legend himself, has given his seal of approval, that's why.
As far as product endorsements go, Wayne takes all comers. Ford, McD's and Esso aren't exactly up there on the list when it comes to corporate responsibility. Number 99 has turned himself into a brand name pushing everything from his own line of wallpaper to pillow cases. Forbes magazine estimates he earned more than $90 million in endorsements in the 90s alone.
How can anyone forget his appearance with wife Janet on the cover of Cigar Aficionado? Yup, this frostbitten Canadian boy has embraced the Hollywood Dream like few others. Contrast Gretzky's endorsement dealings with, say, the route taken by Mario Lemieux, arguably Gretz's only equal on the ice. Super Mario has eschewed the ad light – and big bucks that go with it. He believes he should be using his god-given talents to further more worthwhile causes – like the fight against cancer, a battle he knows all too well. And for the longest time he was ostracized by Canadian fans, the black knight to Gretzky's white.
In the eyes of an adoring Canadian public, Gretzky remains a god. He can do no wrong. Even while his former assistant coach and close friend Rick Tocchet was being indicted on gambling charges last year, the Canadian media treated Wayne with kid gloves. From where I'm sitting, it seems almost karmic that perhaps the greatest player this country's ever produced has been banished – both literally and figuratively– to toil in the desert as coach and part owner of those lowly dogs known as the Phoenix Coyotes.Here's hoping his latest endorsement deal goes the way of the Reebok pump basketball shoe. Wait a minute, doesn't Reebok make a pump skate for goalies?