'Long time coming': Wayne Gretzky rejoins Oilers as partner, vice-chair

The Edmonton Oilers announced Wednesday that Wayne Gretzky is joining the Oilers Entertainment Group as a partner and vice chair.

But No. 99 won't have any involvement with hockey operations

Wayne Gretzky, wife Janet and his sons unveiled his refurbished statue at Rogers Place in Edmonton Wednesday. (CBC)

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky is joining the Oilers Entertainment Group as a partner and vice-chair. the Oilers announced Wednesday.

"This has been a day a long time coming," team owner Daryl Katz told a news conference.

"The Oilers family is honoured to welcome Wayne back into an official role with the organization where his legendary career began, where he will have a hand in helping the Oilers and the city of Edmonton return to a place of prominence."

Gretzky will have nothing to do with the on-ice team, Katz said. 

"Wayne will work with Bob Nicholson and me on all aspects of of OEG business," he said. "None of this changes the structure of the Edmonton Oilers hockey operations hierarchy.

"This is [general manager] Peter Chiarelli's team. He calls the shots."

Gretzky said he and Katz made a handshake deal when the two met several months ago. 

"This is a really great opportunity for me to get back into the game and have a chance to do what we all want to do, win a Stanley Cup," Gretzky said.

"I'm privileged and proud to be an Oiler."

The Oilers made the announcement shortly after unveiling the refurbished Gretzky statue Wednesday afternoon ahead of opening night at the brand new Rogers Place.

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Gretzky reflected on the team's winning years.

"When we were kids playing here, we didn't think about the future, other than we wanted to become the best team we could possibly become," he said. 

"Fortunately, we had so many great players that were unselfish and had one goal and that was to win the Stanley Cup," he said, before wishing the current batch of Oilers the best of luck Wednesday night and for the rest of the season.

Since 1989, the three-metre bronze statue of Gretzky hoisting the Stanley Cup welcomed hockey fans to Rexall Place in north Edmonton.

Designed by sculptor John Weaver with bronzesmith Don Begg, the 430-kilogram artwork went back to Begg's Studio West in Cochrane, west of Calgary, earlier this summer for cleaning and refurbishing.

The Oilers also unveiled the Oilers Hall of Fame room at Wednesday's ceremony.

Wayne Gretzky's first game-worn jersey is on display in the new Oilers Hall of Fame room at Rogers Place. The jersey is on loan from a private collector in Montreal. (Min Dhariwal/CBC)
A collection of Oilers uniforms and other equipment in the Hall of Fame room. (Min Dhariwal/CBC)