British Columbia

Autographed Wayne Gretzky jersey valued at $10K stolen from Kelowna, B.C., store

In a press release, Kelowna RCMP say they received a call Tuesday morning reporting a break-in at Player's Choice Sports on Cawston Avenue.

Several boxes of sports memorabilia cards worth around $20K were also stolen

A man in white and an autographed jersey featuring the logo of 'Racers.'
RCMP are asking the public for help to identify a lone suspect who they say broke into a sports collectibles store in downtown Kelowna, B.C., this week stealing $30,000 worth of items, including an Indianapolis Racers jersey autographed by hockey great Wayne Gretzky. (Submitted by Kelowna RCMP)

An autographed Wayne Gretzky jersey valued at $10,000 was one of many items stolen from a sports memorabilia store in downtown Kelowna, B.C., according to RCMP.

In a press release, RCMP say they received a call Tuesday morning at 2:10 a.m. reporting a break-in at Player's Choice Sports, located at 470 Cawston Ave.

Police released a photo of the suspect, who they say broke into the shop by smashing its front window with a hammer.

Store co-owner Jason Wobshall says he's still compiling a list of stolen items, but among them is an Indianapolis Racers jersey signed by Gretzky. The hockey legend played eight games for the Racers of the World Hockey Association in 1978 before joining the Edmonton Oilers.

The exterior of a store, named 'Players Choice,' is boarded up on its front window and main entrance.
A front window and the main entrance of Player's Choice Sports are boarded up after the break-in. (Submitted by Katie Jenion)

Wobshall says he still has the certificate to prove the authenticity of Gretzky's signature. He says the shirt is valued at $10,000 as autographed jerseys are rare. 

He adds that several boxes of sports memorabilia cards worth about $20,000 were also stolen.

"For them to be stolen like that, that just really sucks," he said.

Wayne Gretzky is pictured as an Edmonton Oilers centre in 1986. Prior to joining the Oilers, he played eight games with the WHA's Indianapolis Racers. (Dave Buston/Canadian Press)

'The last kick in the butt'

Player's Choice Sports has been vandalized many times during its 18 years of business, including a broken window last November, Wobshall says.

"When we got the notification [that] said that the door had been breached, that was a new one for us," he said. "Both front doors have been splashed … and then we realized the back door was left open."

Latest data from Statistics Canada shows that Kelowna recorded a crime severity index of 122.29 in 2021, a rate higher than in Vancouver (81.64), Victoria (71.45) and Abbotsford–Mission (78.24).

Despite the expenses associated with repairs, Wobshall says he has never wanted to make an insurance claim, as it will only increase his premiums.

"Like so many small businesses, we just eat that," he said. "We weren't surprised at all because [vandalism and break-ins are] just what happens to every downtown business here."

Wobshall says he hopes Tuesday's break-in was "the last kick in the butt" before his business moves to a new location outside the downtown core. A soft opening of the new location  at 310 Banks Road is planned for March 1, he says.

A man in jacket and wearing a ball cap speaks inside a shop full of merchandise.
Jason Wobshall says he hopes the break-in this week was the 'last kick in the butt' before his store moves out of downtown core area this weekend. (Joel Ballard/CBC)

Meanwhile, RCMP are asking the public for help to identify the suspect.

"A theft like this causes immense financial harm to a small local business in our community, and the RCMP is going to use every investigational tool possible to find and arrest those responsible," Kelowna RCMP media relations officer Const. Mike Della-Paolera said in a written statement.

With files from Joel Ballard


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