In Canada, there are some things that are well known across the country and two of those things have a surprising connection. A new Wayne Gretzky Tim Hortons ad shows how a simple autograph inspired his hockey career. A chance encounter and a few words written on a napkin helped make one of Canada's biggest sports legends.
The new ad by the Canadian coffee chain shows the true story of how a young Gretzky visited a newly opened Timmies location in Brantford, Ontario to meet his hockey hero.
In 1968, he walked into that new location with his mother and met Tim Horton which changed his life forever.
"When I was a young boy, I looked up to Tim Horton. He was an icon – one of the best Canadian hockey players of his generation. I would watch him play on TV and every night I went to bed thinking about being like him and playing hockey on TV," said Gretzky, in a news release.
After going into that new Brantford location, he realized he forgot to bring something for Horton to sign but hope was not lost because his idol quickly grabbed a napkin and wrote "Wayne, Best Wishes, Tim Horton."
This meeting inspired Gretzky to dream of being a professional hockey player one day and he did all of that and more.
After meeting Horton, the ad shows a young Gretzky working on his hockey skills outside in the backyard, playing the game over the years through to his last game in the NHL.
The actual autographed napkin makes an appearance in the ad with The Great One reading the message from all those years ago while sitting beside his father, Walter.*
The hockey legend's dad has kept it for more than 50 years because of how much it meant to his son.
"There have been many moments in my career that I will never forget, but the moment I met Tim in that restaurant, and he signed that napkin for me, it inspired me to believe that I could become a professional hockey player like him," said the former professional hockey player.
The ad, called The Autograph, will first air on TV during the IIHF Ice Hockey World Junior Championships which starts on December 26.
It's fitting to air the ad during the tournament because the 17 points Gretzky scored during the 1978 World Junior Championships are still to this day the most points scored by a 16-year-old at the tournament.
The ad was so important, more than 68,000 Canadian boys auditioned for the role of young Gretzky.
On January 15, Canadians can get limited-edition tumblers featuring The Great One's autograph and the iconic number 99 at participating Tim Hortons locations across Canada for $17.99 while supplies last.
*This story has been updated.