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Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Esa Tikkanen - The Magnificent Trio - 1998
Ken Dryden

Mark Messier

`Magnificent Trio `

This is a 16" x 20" acrylic on canvas painting of

Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Esa Tikkanen

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 humour.
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 Joe Versikaitis 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 Flames.

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 like that!

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 hockey player!!!

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 awesome!

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 this crowd.

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 " That's Nice!"

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 try!

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 of life!

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 experience. 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


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