The Wayne Gretzky of Wayne Gretzky collectors has netted big bucks for old pucks after an auction of some of his choicest memorabilia closed Wednesday.
Shawn Chaulk, a construction contractor from Fort McMurray, Alta., received more than $500,000 for a collection of jerseys, skates, helmets, gloves and pucks used in action by the Great One.
About $350,000 came from one item alone—the jersey Gretzky wore in the 1986-87 season when he scored his 500th NHL goal and won the Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers.
Chaulk said those deals may be dwarfed by those yet to come, as private buyers sniff around what's left of what was probably the greatest Gretzky collection ever assembled.
"While we were busy auctioning this group of stuff out the front door, there was a lineup of people knocking on the back door looking for private deals," said Chaulk. "In one single transaction this week, I sold a group of five items for over $100,000."
Chaulk, a 45-year-old quick-to-smile former Newfoundlander, had amassed a collection that made grown men weak in the knees—memorabilia from the world's best player from the sport's last great dynasty.
The items most recently on auction included pieces of hockey history including:
—The puck Gretzky shot to score his 500th goal ($22,400).
—The skates he wore for that milestone marker ($19,500).
—A Jofa helmet worn during Gretzky's last year in the Western Hockey League and first year as an Oiler ($13,000).
—A No. 99 practice bib and jersey ($14,000).
—A selection of sticks from all-star games as well as from Gretzky's time with the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers ($1,433 to $2,310).
Bargain items? The socks he wore in the 1984 Campbell Conference all-star game could have been yours for a mere $875.
Those prices don't include the 20 per cent buyer's premium.
Chaulk said he's generally pleased with the prices his artifacts fetched.
"It was a lot of fun," he said. "I thought maybe the jersey might go higher, as did most people in the hobby.
"But auctions are fickle. You're lucky to have two people bid against each other at those levels."
Still, the 500-goal jersey went back and forth through 29 bids. It may be the second-most expensive hockey jersey ever purchased. The one worn by Paul Henderson during the 1972 series against the Russians last sold for $1.2 million.
The online auction opened in mid-May and closed early Wednesday as the last bids trickled in. Chaulk wasn't glued to the bidding, but those who were kept him plugged in.
"I sat in my office all last night and worked," he said. "And as I was working I was fielding emails and texts from people all around the globe."
Although Chaulk has a pretty good idea of who some of the bidders were, the buyers are confidential. He is pleased to note that two of the pucks—including the 500-goal biscuit—will stay in Fort McMurray.
Chaulk doesn't plan to sell his entire stash, but he has plenty more Gretzky memorabilia for sale. The player's game-used sticks alone number over 100 and range from one used in the 1978 world junior tournament from one used in Gretzky's last game with the New York Rangers in 1999.
Chaulk hints one buyer is talking about picking up pretty much all that's left for $1.7 million—about the yearly price of a third-line NHLer. Chaulk said that lot could wind up in a combination restaurant, hotel and museum devoted to The Shawn Chaulk Collection.
"That would be pretty cool."
What's next? Chaulk doesn't know.
His collection has already brought him all sorts of new friends, unlikely contacts and precious memories, from hanging out at the Sundance Film Festival with Gretzky fan and filmmaker Kevin Smith to touring the collection with The Great One himself.
Nor have those opportunities stopped. After it heard of Chaulk's hoard, a production company contacted him about getting involved with a reality TV show.
It's all mushroomed pretty big for someone who just started buying game-used gear because it made him feel close to the game he loves.
But there are no regrets to bidding goodbye to what's been a big part of his life.
"I hold firm to the fun I've had with this—the challenges, the chase, the experiences, the people. It's awesome.
"I can't sell that. That'll be with me for ever."