I'd be lying if I said I was a big NHL hockey fan. My adopted city of San Diego has never had an NHL team. Even the local minor league team, the Gulls, went defunct in 2006. I did live in Dallas when the Stars moved from Minnesota, and obtained dozens of autographs in person from the Stars and visiting teams during the 1990s.
One player I never got in Dallas was Wayne Gretzky, obviously considered to be one of the best players in NHL history. I always had bad luck with him in Dallas. One year he signed for everyone, and I mean everyone, on his way to morning skate -- but I was at work. On the way back, he assumed that everyone had gotten him multiple times and refused to sign despite my pleas.
But after moving to San Diego I more than made up for that bad luck. The first time I got him was at a roller hockey rink grand opening in Escondido (just north of San Diego) around 1998 or 1999. In 2000 he hosted the LAPD Golf Tournament and signed up a storm. Since then I've seen him at other golf tournaments and he's been pretty good about signing at all of them. What's interesting is how inconsistent his autograph is. In an earlier blog post
I wrote about how my favorite NFL player Dan Marino's autograph was impossible to authenticate due to inconsistency. If anything, Gretzky's autograph is even more inconsistent than Marino's.
†I currently offer 46, yes 46, different Wayne Gretzky autographed items from cards to photos to magazines to pucks to jerseys, and even a glove. I am quite sure that is a much better selection than any of my competitors. A few are from Upper Deck Authenticated, one is from a paid signing by Gartlan, one is from a paid signing with Gateway cachets. The rest were obtained in person by me or someone on my behalf (most at golf tournaments, but also at the team hotel when Gretzky was coaching). None were bought on the open market. They are all 100% authentic.
Yet if you compare the signatures, there are sloppy ones, neat ones, shorthand ones and full name ones. The best ones (mostly but not all from UDA) you can read the 99 he usually writes below his signature. On the rest sometimes there is just a single 9 visible or sometimes nothing legible at all down there. Which brings me to my main point. What business does PSA/DNA have accepting money to evaluate the authenticity of a signature that differs so much, even when signed at the same event? The answer? None. (Yes, I know that I have a Gretzky autographed 1999 NHL All-Star Game ticket certified by PSA/DNA -- I got that signed at the LAPD Tournament and PSA/DNA graded it for free as partial compensation for an extremely valuable unsigned ticket that they "lost.")
With a Gretzky autograph, the difference between a PSA/DNA sticker and a UDA sticker is about the same as the NHL career point totals of Wayne (2857) and his brother Brent (4).