Never one to shy away from an interesting side gig, Canadian hockey legend (and restaurateur and winemaker) Wayne Gretzky is also an improbable fashionisto. Last month, he presented his line of spring and summer wardrobe staples (to be sold at Sears in the new year) at Toronto Fashion Week. Here, the one we call The Great One shares some of the secrets to his success, including why it's cool if you just call him Wayne.
Know your partners and your strengths
What I really look for in terms of business venture is the opportunity to partner with a great company. My partnership with my restaurant has been 23 years, my association with my partner John Peller at the winery has just been over the top and fun and exciting. In the case of the clothing line, I met with the people at Sears and I felt like this could be something similar. When you sit down with a potential partner, it's an instinctual thing. Growing up in Brantford, Ont., and living a lot of years in Edmonton, I really believe that when you shake somebody's hand, you have a deal. I want to work with someone who I can trust in that sense. In terms of the product, I wanted to create a line that is affordable and still classy. I had input, but not too much. The rule I tend to follow is, "John Peller didn't tell Wayne Gretzky how to play hockey, and I don't tell John Peller how to make wine."
Canadians are conservative
I like to dress smart and also to be very comfortable, which is reflected in my clothing line. I think I have a sense of style that is quite similar to a lot of Canadians – we're pretty conservative as far as colours go. Our blazers are blue-black or grey. V-neck sweaters that you can either wear business casual or just plain casual. The less you have the name Wayne Gretzky splashed on the outside, the better. Subtlety is more my style.
Just call me Wayne
The people in my life, my family, my friends, obviously they call me Wayne. I was 10 years old when a reporter at the London Free Press gave me that nickname [The Great One] and I guess it stuck. In a lot of ways it's flattering; in other ways it can be burdening. But I don't really put a whole lot of stock in what people call me – Wayne, Gretz. That's their prerogative.
To minimize pressure, maximize fun
It is very hard for anyone who is not an athlete to realize or understand the level of pressure that an athlete can be under. The thing that I always noticed when I was playing is that the people who seemed to do the best in the very intense pressure-cooker situations were the ones who seemed to be having fun. I think no matter the significance of the outcome, whether it's the Stanley Cup finals or game seven, ninth inning, you try to take yourself back to when you were a kid. When you tighten up and tense up under the pressure, that's when the problems come.
Leadership is a team sport
Good leadership is all about walking the walk. The best leaders in sports and in business are not the ones who rant and rave and yell and scream, but the ones who really believe in working together and who really value the contributions of every single person on the team, whether that's at a rink or in an office.
This interview has been condensed and edited by Courtney Shea.