Gretzky Classic shut down after three years 0
The economy did to Wayne Gretzky what opposing players couldn't.
The recession has prompted the Canadian hockey icon to shut down his Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic Nationwide Tour Golf tournament.
It ran for the past three summers at the Georgian Bay Club and at the Raven at Lora Bay and brought pro hockey players and other entertainment stars to the area for the four-day tournament.
"We decided to go up to Collingwood and then bang, three months later we're in the worst recession in 30 years," Wayne Gretzky Foundation executive director Glen Gretzky said Friday.
"If you don't have your sponsors lined up before you sign your deal, it's a real uphill battle. At this point, it was just too risky to go ahead."
The tournament cost more than $2 million a year to stage, even more when the Canadian dollar traded at 86 cents to the American greenback. Included in this cost was the annual payment to the Golf Channel to air the tournament on television.
"If we didn't get those corporate dollars up front, we couldn't go forward with signing another three-year deal," Gretzky said. "We had sponsorship dollars, but not enough to ensure that we weren't putting the foundation at risk to (suffer) any losses. We had Ford and Samsung but it was a matter of getting those other sponsors."
The tournament was a success for the foundation but it didn't hit the financial home run as expected.
"In terms of the Nationwide Tour, we definitely hit the mark there and in terms of the players and spectators, it was a grand slam there," said Gretzky.
"Financially, it was not as robust as we would have liked. In saying that, we are pretty proud with what we did for the three years within the community."
The Gretzky Foundation donated $50,000 to the new medical clinic in Thornbury. It also founded a program in the Blue Mountain area which provides equipment and pays for registration for new hockey players.
The tournament also provided funds for the foundation's national programs.
Gretzky said the lasting memory this tournament will leave for him was the annual kids clinic.
"Having the pros put on a mini golf school for a few hours, that was always great," said Gretzky.
"Watching the pros get out there and bomb drives and to see the little kids sit there and watch it in awe was special."
Gretzky said that the foundation has no other plans to replace the tournament with another fundraiser.
He hasn't ruled out resurrecting the tournament when the economy turns around.
"I would never say this is the end of it," said Gretzky. "We made some great strides and learned a lot and down the road we may revisit it."