This Day in History:
On December 15th 1978, the WHA Indianapolis Racers ceased to exist as owner Nelson Skalbania concentrated on a $100,000,000 real estate deal and couldn't afford to keep losing money on his hockey team.
After only eight games of the 1978-79 season and the Racers bleeding a reported $2,000,000 Skalbania needed to cash in his asset. Gretzky scored 3 goals and six points in those 8 games, with his 1st and 2nd goals coming within 39 seconds in the second period in his 4th game against goalie Dave Dryden and the Edmonton Oilers.
Skalbania first tried to peddle Wayne to the Winnipeg Jets but majority owner Michael Gobuty had been advised that Gretzky was overrated and too small. Next up was the Oilers and his old pal Peter Pocklington. Glen Sather remembered Gretzky from their earlier game, "I thought Wayne must be a stick boy or some kid who hung around with the team. Then the game started and he went around one of our veteran players like a lamp post."
Sather urged Pocklington to do whatever it took to acquire Gretzky. Pocklington had been thought to pay $850,000 for Gretzky, Ed Mio and Peter Driscoll but ended up paying only $400,000. He put $300,000 down with a promissory note for $250,000 against a promised $500,000 to be paid if the Oilers joined the NHL. With Skalbania's financial situation deteriorating, he agreed to take $100,000 in exchange for the rights to the note.
On January 18th 1978 Gretzky celebrated his 18th birthday by signing a new 21 year personal services contract with Pocklington at center ice at Edmonton's Northlands Coliseum before a game against the Cincinnati Stingers.
Actually Gretzky pretended to sign his name to the contract. He signed the name "Ace" at the urging of his friend and teammate Garnet "Ace" Bailey. Gretzky later signed his own name
Watching the ceremony was a young Stinger's player who had just turned 18 eight days prior and had been acquired earlier in the season by the Racers to replace Gretzky. His name was Mark Messier.