Gretzky scoring tale stirs up controversy

This photo taken by Walter Gretzky shows the first of thousands of goals scored by his...

This photo taken by Walter Gretzky shows the first of thousands of goals scored by his soon-to-be-famous son Wayne in January, 1968, in Stratford, Ont.

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:06 PM ET

STRATFORD, Ont. - Somewhere in the fabric of every town or city’s hockey history is a loose thread.

Tug on it and something unravels.

Here it’s a story with a six-year-old Wayne Gretzky as the central figure, playing on a team of 11-year-olds called the Nadrofsky Steelers in 1967-68.

Skating against a team from Stratford, Gretzky, wearing number 11, scored his first goal in competitive hockey, a moment captured by his dad, Walter, in a black and white photo.

The controversy surrounding the goal is over the identity of the goalie in the Stratford net. Two men claim to be the kid who was responsible for sending Gretkzy on his way as the NHL’s most prolific scorer.

The story is being retold again in Stratford as the town prepares to host Hockey Day in Canada.

Stratford’s Tim Kelly is sure it’s him. He said he can tell by the multi-coloured goal pads and the stick in his hand, a stick his dad, Tom, still has in the rafters of his garage.

In Walter Gretkzy’s photo, it sure looks like the same stick.

But former Stratford resident Bill Cunningham said, in his heart he knows it’s him, pointing out Kelly wore glasses and the goalie in the photo clearly isn’t wearing glasses.

At least one teammate said he thinks it’s Cunningham in the photo.

Two boys-turned-men, two stories, no way of knowing who was in the net that January day in 1968, who played in a role in an early moment of a hockey legend being born.

Two other interesting things: it’s remarkable that Walter Gretzky got a photo of Wayne’s first goal, but he was an admitted photo fanatic.

The other is that was Wayne’s only goal that season.

Stratford resident and CBC anchorman Peter Mansbridge was helping out with Wayne Gretzky’s golf tournament when word came down Stratford had been awarded Hockey Day.

“I told him Stratford had just got Hockey Day and he said, ‘You know, I scored my first goal in organized hockey in Stratford in that old arena there,’” remembered Mansbridge. “He said, ‘I know it was a long time ago because the goalie wasn’t wearing a mask. It was February. I hadn’t scored all year and I was beginning to think I didn’t want to play hockey.’ Of course, his dad talked him out of that and he scored in Stratford.”

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


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