Shawn Chaulk is one of the world’s leading collectors of Wayne Gretzky sports memorabilia. His vast collection includes thousands of items worth millions, but some of his favorites are priceless.
Watch MAGPIE’s CEO Kathryn Harrison and avid hockey collector Shawn Chaulk continue their conversation from last week with a walk-through of his all-time favorite items, or read a shortened version below (responses have been edited slightly for length and clarity).
You have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of items in your collection. But if you had to choose just one, which would you select as your absolute favorite?
I get this question all the time! And my answer is never what people think. As you know, I’ve collected thousands of amazing items over the years. I’ve owned everything from Wayne Gretzky’s convertibles, to his game-worn jerseys, to milestone pieces of equipment. But at the end of the day, they’re just assets — they come and go. There are far more important things in life than your collection, such as experiences and memories. That’s why if I had to keep just one thing, it would be my photo album from Wayne Gretzky’s 2003 Fantasy Camp in Phoenix, Arizona.
60 of us signed up for a week in the life of an NHL player. We were drafted into four teams, and spent a week playing a round robin tournament for the Gretzky Cup. Of course, the camp itself was amazing too, and complete with a team bus, practices, trainers, massage therapists, brand-new personalized equipment and professional sports photographer Bruce Bennett. It was thoroughly one of the best weeks of my life — to skate alongside the greats was a remarkable experience. And that is what’s captured in this photo album.
Thank you so much for sharing! Sounds like it was an opportunity to really live everything in your collection. What’s up next?
Before I downsized my collection, I had about 400 Gretzky game-used sticks from his junior hockey days all the way through his coaching career in Phoenix. But the series of four sticks I am going to show you are meaningful because I intend to leave them for my children.
In 2003, my wife Tanya and I watched the Edmonton Oilers play in the Heritage Classic hockey game. It was a particularly special night because we announced to my family and close friends that she was pregnant with our first child, our oldest son, Spencer. The NHL went on to auction off the guys’ memorabilia like they always do, and I purchased one of the six sticks he used to commemorate the night and pass on to Spencer one day.
Fast forward to when he was about five or six years old. Spencer asked his mom to take him shopping for Father’s day. She took him to the mall, and he picked out a framed 8 x 10 photograph from the 1984 Canada Cup tournament. Stunned (and touched by the thoughtfulness of my young son), I wondered if the two sticks I had on my wall from the same tournament were also in the photograph. As it turned out, they were. One day, Spencer will get this stick to hang on his own wall, too.
This leads me to my daughter. For a little background, every year the NHL runs a “Hockey Fights Cancer” campaign, during which the teams use pink or purple gear to raise awareness and the game proceeds are contributed to the fight against the disease. This is Wayne’s pink stick, and there were only a couple of them ever made. And at the time, both of my parents were battling cancer and I had only one little girl, so I thought a pink stick that benefitted a cause near and dear to my heart was only fitting.
The fourth stick is set aside for my youngest son. It’s the same blue stick used by Gretzky in the photo of us on the bench. As I mentioned earlier, that event was in Phoenix, and my youngest son is also named Phoenix. He was born about 10 weeks premature, and faced some immediate struggles after birth that worked themselves out through the miracles of modern medicine and good doctors. He lived to dream, and I lived my dream, so it’s only fitting that he’ll receive this stick.
That’s amazing. I think this really shows how the incredible moments in history and sports tie into our individual lives and the things we face, for better or for worse. Thanks so much for sharing those with us. Last but not least, I know you have a very special card set already logged in MAGPIE; would you mind sharing a little more about that?
One of the vintage sets I put together is the iconic 1951 Parkhurst hockey set. Because of the production pause due to the World War II effort, all of the cards in this first postwar set became rookie cards — even though some players had competed in the league for several years already. Maurice Richard’s, Gordie Howe’s, Terry Sawchuk’s and other Hockey Hall of Famers’ rookie cards are all in there. The importance of this card set, both within the history of collecting and the history of the game, cannot be emphasized enough.
I committed to maintaining a PSA 8 or better throughout this set. However, because each of these players only have a few dozen cards left in existence, it was a pretty lofty goal. But I did it one card at a time. I followed the auctions, and whenever one came up I made sure I was a bidder. There were also a few private sales along the way, and one collector — his own ‘51 Parkhurst collection was ranked #1 in the world — was instrumental in helping me achieve my goals (he sold me many of his spare cards).
By now, I’ve upgraded many of these cards, so the majority in the set are at least an 8.5. I’ll continue to improve that set for as long as I can, because it’s my favorite set and the one I want to achieve the most with. But with sometimes single-digit populations, I don’t get many upgrades these days.
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Special thanks goes to Shawn Chaulk for sharing his collection and its story.