Jari Kurri, Esa Tikkanen
`Magnificent Trio `
This is a 16" x 20" acrylic on canvas painting
Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Esa
of the Edmonton Oilers
by Joe Versikaitis
In this painting not only do I want to show the expression on the players faces, but also a bit of
That being Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri are observing an altercation that I know Esa Tikkanen had something to do with.
The crowd shows some folks are right in the game and others are just happy to be there. Of course the game was one of many " Battles of Alberta " games.
When the trio played on the ice together the intensity on the game grew to a higher level. They showed their unique talents for the world to enjoy.
They were " Magnificent".
The original is owned by
and it was signed by Wayne Gretzky on February 22, 1999.
...The story...February 23, 1999...
I am not going to bore you on the
inspiration behind the rendering and how I created this piece or
how many hours it took. But more so, I am going to tell you
about how I got this painting signed by the Great One!
It was about a month before the game
between the Calgary Flames and the New York Rangers when my
friend Mike Franco gave me the news that I would be able to see
Wayne and perhaps get him to sign the original rendering. Mike
is one of the sales and marketing personal with the Calgary
Well for that whole month I prepared
my marketing pitch. I visualized the pitches that Wayne usually
gets from other people wanting to sale him memorabilia ideas for
his likeness. I remember saying that I wanted to be different. I
wanted Wayne to remember my work so that he would take the time
to pick up the phone and call me for a commission. Can you
imagine that? My imagination was going wild!!! Wayne calling
me!!!! What would I say to him?.....Crazy to even actually think
Well I wrote down questions to ask
him but at the same time kept everything simple but concrete. I
had my business cards, flyer with a write up on the painting,
and of course I had the painting framed. I was ready!!
The night before the game I didn't
sleep a wink...I was so nervous just thinking of what was about
to happen that evening after the game. I remember going to work
and telling my colleagues
about my great luck and the venture coming up that
evening. Nobody there really cared! What was the answer from our
engineer " Oh that's nice!"
I know I'm just a nobody with a
huge dream to become a sports artist!. But all I cared about was
that I was going to meet Wayne Gretzky!!!! The worlds best
I left work early and drove to
Calgary to pick up my friend Lloyd Butt. Lloyd was a keen
sales person, very smart and always knew the positive things to
say to people.
My friend Mike got us seats in the
Terrace Suite. I mean Mike treated us like Royalty! It was
I brought the painting with me into
the the Terrace Suite and had it displayed up on a spare table.
People were asking about it and getting their pictures taken
with it. It was pretty humbling!
During the game Lloyd could tell
that I was very nervous and was actually trying to coach me
through what to say to Wayne. All I remember was Lloyd telling
me to say what I practiced all month." Tell him your pitch and
everything will go great!" He told me something that I'll never
forget " Wayne is just a human being!...He breaths just like you
and me!" ....Oh yah that really helped..!
The game turned out to be more than
just a game of hockey, it was to be Wayne Gretzky's last game
ever to be played at the Canadian Airlines Saddledome.
With my painting in hand, Lloyd and
myself went down to the main concourse to meet Mike who was
going to leads down to the players area to meet Wayne. The
surprise came when we opened the main doors to the area and
found that another 500 or so people had the same idea that we
did. I thought oh my goodness this is going to be a long night.
Then I thought that Wayne will never get to see the painting.
All these crappy thoughts raced through my mind! Then Mike
suggested that we go and wait for Wayne by the Rangers bus
outside the dome. Mike walked us to the samboni doors and said
this is it. You'll have to go and wait out here. He opened the
door and Imagine my surprise when we saw the 1000 people
standing there. I mean there was a lot of people!. I looked at
Mike shook his hand and thanked him for everything he's done and
also for this moment. Lloyd and I walked outside into this wall
of people. The bus was cornered off by barricades and the people
were made to stand behind them. We were right at the back of
I turned to Lloyd and said " Were
never going to get to the front to see him!" Then Lloyd
looked at me, grabbed my painting and said, " Follow me!"
Now you have to picture this...Lloyd is not a small guy about
200ish lbs and this guy made a plow-path straight to the front.
All the while being as polite as possible by saying " Excuse me
coming through." not pushing people but we slowly made our way
through until we were standing in front of the barricades.
I could see the door to the bus and
there was people standing there waiting for Wayne to come out.
Lloyd looked at me and shook my hand and said " As close as were
going to get to front row seats! " It seemed like we were waiting
hours for Wayne to come out. Then all of the sudden there was
this cheer from the crowd as Wayne came out. He walked right by
everybody waving his hand to the crowd. It was like watching a
Rock Star walk by! It was pretty cool.
Wayne then stood by the door of the
bus and talked to the few guys that were standing by the bus
earlier. Then his body guards or whoever these men were, came to
the crowd and asked people to give them there collectables
for Wayne to sign. I looked at Lloyd and said " What he's not
coming over?" Lloyd looked at me and said " I guess not but just
hold the painting up so buddy can see it!" So I held my painting
up. All of the sudden one of gentleman comes over and says lets
see that, pointing to the painting and I gave it to him.
He looked at it then looked at me asked if I did this...It
was so surreal, I just said " Yes!" and he just turned walked over
to where Wayne was. I could see Wayne signing it and looking at
it, shaking his head up and down, almost like he was saying "
The same gentleman returned the
piece and said to me that Wayne like it...I asked him if
he would mind giving Wayne my business card and flyer but he
refused saying that he couldn't do that.
I looked at Lloyd and in turn he said " Well at least you got his signature buddy!"
We both looked over to the bus and
Wayne disappeared inside. Then the crowd started to disburse.
There Lloyd and I were looking at this bus knowing the Great One
was inside. Then Lloyd said " Well, that's it !" I looked at him
and said but he never got my card....or my flyer! Then out comes
Adam Graves from the Saddledome. I said cool and walked right
up to Adam. He looked at me and I said " Excuse me Mr. Graves."
and he goes " Yes, how can I help you?" At that time I grabbed a
piece of paper and my pen that I had and asked him for his
autograph. Adam just automatically grad the paper and pen and
signed it. At the same time looking at what I had in my
other hand and thinking that he was going to sign something else. Now
I can just imagine he's thought process when I gave him the
business card and flyer of Wayne's art piece. He looked at me
with this puzzling look and said " What's this?" and I said "
Would you mind giving this to Wayne? He signed my painting
but I never got a chance to give him this!" The poor guy gave me
a look, you know the weird look? But calmly said " Sure!" I thanked him and he said
" Sure, no problem." He then turned and walked inside the
bus..... I'm such a goof! All I was thinking was to
get my information to Wayne no matter what!...Wow!... Well I
guess you never know if you don't
This whole experience was so
surreal. We got back pretty late to Lloyd and his girlfriend
Veronica house whom invited me to stay overnight. As I was
trying to fall asleep, I could not help but think of all the things I
wanted to say to Wayne! Like the pitch I was
going to give Wayne or just to shake his hand and say
"Thank you so much for signing my painting! ... would you be
interested in one yourself?" .
I know one thing, that what
happened last night is something that I'll never forget for the rest
Thank you Lloyd, Thank you so much!
Thank you Mike Franco, thank you for
making this happen I owe you so much buddy!
Joe Versikaitis - Sports Artist
October 29th, 2016...
A lot of years have gone by and
Wayne has not taken the time to call me and ask me to do a
painting of him yet! Imagine that? Obviously he never received
my so important business card or flyer that night in 1999! Or
maybe he did but never thought twice about it!...lol
By the way my friend Lloyd Butt
has a famous brother called Brent Butt. Actor and Producer of
the fame TV show
" Corner Gas "
You know every time I read this story it
gives me goose bumps. This whole story is a pretty cool
Not too bad at that time for a want-to-be sports artist from a
small southern Alberta town called Brooks!
On November 19th, 2016 with the help of the
Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, I am so grateful to
have the opportunity to exhibit and showcase this and other
pieces. I know that Wayne is now involved with the Edmonton
Oilers again and for that I pray that perhaps he will find the
time out of his busy schedule to come and see the
exhibit.....and perhaps make my dream come true of commissioning
me to create a one of a kind rendering of the worlds greatest
hockey player... The Great One!
Joe Versikaitis - Sports Artist
All works are under the Canadian
Copyrights Law. Any reproduction in part or whole without the
written consent is strictly prohibited