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When Andy Warhol and Wayne Gretzky teamed up for a portrait

Who knew Wayne Gretzky was an art connoisseur in addition to being Canada's premier hockey player?

Hockey legend was a true fan of the pop artist before he posed for portrait in 1983

Wayne Gretzky, seen having an exchange of words with Islanders goalie Billy Smith during the 1983 Stanley Cup playoffs, was painted by Andy Warhol that same year. (Dave Buston/Canadian Press)
Who knew Wayne Gretzky was an art connoisseur in addition to being Canada's premier hockey player?

It's what we all found out when the news emerged 35 years ago that Andy Warhol had done a portrait of No. 99.

It was part of an arrangement involving Gretzky, Warhol and a Vancouver art dealer, as well as some investors. 

"I have a few of Andy Warhol's paintings of my own that I've collected over the years," Gretzky told Radio Canada International in December of 1983.

"I'm by no means saying that I know a whole lot about art. I buy things that I enjoy and I enjoy his stuff and to be painted by him is terrific."

Sports fans and art collectors unite! RCI reports on a gallery opening featuring Andy Warhol's portraits of the Great One. 3:12

According to the RCI report, Gretzky got to keep one of the six paintings of himself that Warhol created — and the hockey superstar picked the one that had his home colours on it.

"The Oiler colours, if you can see the blue with the orange and white," he said. "They all look the same, but the colour in that one was the one that I seemed to like the most."

'He's more than a hockey player'

Warhol, the famed pop art personality, also talked to RCI about the portrait and the project.

"He's more than a hockey player, he's an entertainer," said Warhol, of Gretzky.

According to CBC Radio's report on the Gretzky portraits, the plan was to sell the originals for $35,000 each (or more than $79,000 in today's dollars, according to the Bank of Canada inflation calculator), as well as a limited number of prints for $2,000 each.

Some of Andy Warhol's portraits of Wayne Gretzky were part of an exhibit at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 2008, as shown in the image above. (Scott W. Sutherland/Canadian Press)

Gretzky told RCI he planned to hang his portrait in his living room, though Sports Illustrated reported in 1988 that it was then displayed in his dining room.