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A jersey worn by Wayne Gretzky in his final Stanley Cup win with the Edmonton Oilers is expected to fetch up to US$1.4-million in auction.Grey Flannel Auctions/Handout

In his last triumphant moment as an Oiler, Wayne Gretzky hoisted the Stanley Cup and skated joyfully around the ice at the Northlands Coliseum. Three months later, in August of 1988, he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in a development that rocked Canada, Edmonton and the sporting world.

The No. 99 jersey he wore that night – and in which he scored the winning goal in a sweep of the Boston Bruins – will likely soon become the most valuable piece of hockey memorabilia in history.

As the current Oilers proceed to Game 2 in their second-round playoff series against the Calgary Flames, Gretzky’s last iconic Edmonton sweater is being sold by an auction house in Arizona. As of Friday the top online bid stood at US$442,000. By the time the sale closes on June 5, it is expected to bring as much as US$1.4-million.

“It is the most important hockey uniform in existence,” Michael Russek, the owner of Grey Flannel Auctions, said Friday.

Not only was it worn by the Great One, but Russek says that it is not ultramodern nor is it so long ago that Gretzky’s influence on the sport has been forgotten. It was the Oilers’ fourth Stanley Cup victory in five years and the last that Gretzky won.

“He was greatest player in history and he wore this jersey at the crescendo of his career,” Russek said. It still bears the stains from the champagne that was sprayed in the dressing room. “[As an auction item] it is really a perfect storm.”

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Wayne Gretzky sits with Glen Sather, left, and John Muckler, right, after Edmonton defeated the Boston Bruins to win the Stanley Cup on May 26, 1988.GARY HERSHORN/Reuters

The highest price previously paid for a piece of hockey history was US$1.275-million a decade ago for the jersey Paul Henderson wore when he scored the winning goal for Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series against Russia.

The Gretzky jersey is owned privately but being sold by Grey Flannel Auctions on consignment. On top of the bidding price, the new owner will also pay a 25-per-cent buyer’s premium to the auctioneer.

Russek says his family-owned company, started by his father 25 years ago, specializes in high-end sports memorabilia. As part of its annual sale, it has a number of other pieces of significance.

Among them is a Bobby Orr rookie card in pristine condition that has already drawn an offer of US$73,000, a baseball signed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1930 (US$25,000), Chicago Black Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte’s 1917 World Series jersey, Barry Bonds’s first major-league home run baseball and Willis Reed’s New York Knicks 1970 NBA Finals warm-up jacket.

There is also a pair of gloves that Gretzky wore in that same 1988 game in the final. The high bid for them is US$11,794 but an expert thinks they will sell for closer US$75,000.

Shawn Chaulk, a Gretzky collector from Fort McMurray, Alta., was a previous owner of the gloves. He has what is considered the world’s most thorough – and valuable – collection of Gretzky memorabilia. He is not involved in the current auction, but was asked recently to procure a high-end Gretzky jersey for an affluent American.

“This jersey was the first one I thought of,” Chaulk says.

He knows the owner and reached out to him but it had already been consigned to the auction. Chaulk estimated its value if sold privately at US$1.4-million.

During the 1988 playoffs, Gretzky had a remarkable 12 goals and 31 assists in 19 games. He retired in 1999 as the leading scorer in league history and his jersey number is the only one to have been retired across the NHL.

Now a studio hockey analyst for TNT, Gretzky declined an invitation to talk about the jersey and its impending sale.

Russek said this is the first time it has been sold publicly. The last time it changed hands privately it sold for about US$500,000, Chaulk says.

“As Oilers items go, this is even better than one of his rookie jerseys,” Chaulk says. He once owned a Mercedes convertible that previously belonged to Gretzky. “He wore it as he wrapped up a tenure in NHL history that will never be matched.

“When he was traded right after that, it was a big historical moment. There are not a lot of players as historically tied to one team as Wayne Gretzky.”

As fans file in to Rogers Place in Edmonton on Sunday evening for Game 3 between the Oilers and Flames, they will pass a bronze statue of Gretzky out front. Invariably, many pictures will be taken.

Chaulk says the jersey was offered to him years ago for US$200,000. He passed.

“You win some and you lose some,” he says.

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