tim hortons the autograph

New Tim Hortons ad features young Ontario hockey players as Wayne Gretzky

A new Tim Hortons ad features a reenactment of a young Wayne Gretzky meeting legendary athlete Tim Horton at a restaurant in Brantford, Ont. in 1968 — the very moment that inspired him to become a professional hockey player. 

The commercial, titled The Autograph, follows Gretzky throughout his career and features two Canadian boys playing the hockey icon at different parts of his life. 

The youngest actor — the one shown meeting Tim Horton — is 8 year-old Gordie Gilders of Campbellford, Ontario, according to Trent Hills Now. 

Twelve year-old Canadian actor Tyler Vriesema plays a teenage Gretzky on the Vaughan Nationals.

The commercial portrays the meeting between Gretzky and Horton all those years ago, including the fact that the young boy forgot to bring something to get autographed.

The hockey legend quickly grabbed a napkin and wrote "Wayne, Best Wishes, Tim Horton."

The ad refers to this moment as "the beginning of something great,"  which is a reference to the fact that Gretzky is often referred to as "The Great One."

Walter Gretzky, Wayne's father, kept the autographed napkin for more than 50 years. Both men are featured in the ad holding the piece of memorabilia. 

"When I was a young boy, I looked up to Tim Horton. He was an icon – one of the best Canadian hockey players of his generation. I would watch him play on TV and every night I went to bed thinking about being like him and playing hockey on TV," Gretzky said in a press release.

"There have been many moments in my career that I will never forget, but the moment I met Tim in that restaurant, and he signed that napkin for me, it inspired me to believe that I could become a professional hockey player like him."

The boys featured in the ad are young hockey players themselves, and both have said being a part of this commercial has had a major impact on them. 

According to a news release, more than 68,000 Canadian boys auditioned for the roles. 

The new commercial first aired during the IIHF Ice Hockey World Junior Championships, and the coffee chain will begin selling limited-edition tumblers featuring The Great One's autograph and iconic number 99 at participating Tim Hortons restaurants across Canada on January 15. 

"To us, the story of Tim Horton and a young Wayne is extraordinary — when I heard it, I knew it was a beautiful and touching story," Paloma Azulay, chief marketing officer of Tim Hortons, said in the release. 

"The true story about the meeting between a Canadian hockey icon and a young boy who we would one day call The Great One was the start of something bigger than great — it was the start of something legendary."

"We're so proud to have played a small part in such an important moment in hockey, and Canadian history. We're excited to share this story with a generation of Canadians who have been inspired by Wayne."

Lead photo by

Tim Hortons

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