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The Great One's first goal

Last summer I was helping Wayne Gretzky at a banquet in Collingwood, Ontario after his annual golf tournament in the area.  And surprise, surprise, at one point our pre-banquet chat turned to hockey.  I told him how my hometown of Stratford, Ontario was hosting the annual Hockey Day in Canada broadcast this year.  Without missing a beat he looked at me and said, "That's where I scored my very first goal!".  I was a bit stunned by that, convinced he must have scored his first goal in organized hockey in his hometown of Brantford, Ontario about an hour away, but no, his Dad Walter who was also there weighed in with "Yup, it was in Stratford".  

Now this was history and I wanted all the details.  And the Great One seemed anxious to give them to me. Something along the lines of this: "It had been a tough year, I was six years old and hadn't scored all season. I told my Dad maybe I should quit hockey."  And then the best stuff, "But in that old arena in Stratford (the Allman arena), I think it was February of 1967, I finally got one.  It was a long time ago - the goalie wore a helmet but not a mask!".

So, there you have it.  My hometown, the site of hockey's greatest player's first ever goal.  Time for a special plaque in the arena I say, already a heritage site as home for North America's longest continuous serving hockey rink in North America, if not the world.

Maybe that's one of the things we'll talk about this week when the Allman arena plays home to Hockey Day in Canada - that great new tradition of CBC Sports which this Saturday will celebrate 10 years of marking our national game.  The National will be a part of it all too - in fact, tonight we'll be broadcasting from the Allman ourselves, just a few metres from the spot where Wayne Gretzky set in motion a legacy of goal scoring which may never be matched.