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In the world of hockey, Wayne Gretzky still looms large. Even if you didn’t particularly care for the Edmonton Oilers, it’s impossible to ignore the Great One’s offensive accomplishments. For most NHL fans, having a conversation with the living legend would be a dream come true. Connor Bedard, however, has already checked that off the list.

For the teenager, though, the interaction almost went south before it even started. In fact, Bedard almost refused to answer the phone when No. 99 came calling.

Let’s travel back in time and check it out.

Wayne Gretzky reached out to Connor Bedard in 2020, but he was almost sent to voicemail

Connor Bedard (L) and Wayne Gretzky (R)
Connor Bedard received a call from Wayne Gretzky after being granted exceptional status. | Dennis Pajot/Getty Images, Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

While we’ve all seen plenty of prospects fail to live up to the hype — Oilers fans will remember Nail Yakupov, for example — Connor Bedard seems poised to make a legitimate impact at the NHL level. That reality has already earned him a personal gesture from Wayne Gretzky.

In 2020, the teenager applied for — and was granted — exceptional status, allowing him to play Major Junior Hockey a year early. That’s a major honor, and the Great One apparently noticed.

“After I received exceptional status, he called,” Bedard told Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post. There was, however, a catch.

“It was a random number from California, so I didn’t know whether to pick up or not,” the teenager admitted. And, even when he answered, he wasn’t quite sure who was on the other end of the line. “I thought it was a buddy pranking me at first, but it sounded like him,” Bedard added.

Eventually, though, the North Vancouver native established that it was actually the NHL’s all-time top dog on the other end of the line. Their conversation wasn’t very long, but it was still memorable.

“The call wasn’t long at all. It was just a ‘congrats’ and a ‘good luck,'” Bedard explained, noting that he was stuttering and could barely speak. “It was a quick talk, but anytime you can talk with him it’s pretty special.”

Thus far, Bedard hasn’t needed too much of Gretzky’s luck. Despite entering the WHL as an exceptional prospect, the center has made an incredible impact with the Regina Pats. He recorded 28 points in 15 games during his first campaign with the club and reached the 100-point plateau during his sophomore outing. The center’s third Major Junior season saw Bedard one-up himself, tallying 143 points (71 goals and 72 assists) in 57 games. Add a historic World Junior Championships performance, and it’s easy to see why he joined the Chicago Blackhawks as the first overall pick of the 2023 NHL draft.

If the young Canadian continues on his current trajectory, he’ll have plenty more encounters with the biggest names in hockey. That reality, however, doesn’t change the fact that receiving a call from the Great One was pretty awesome.

“It said a lot about him for him to do something like that,” Bedard said. “For me growing up as a hockey fan, obviously I never watched him because I’m too young, but he’s the epitome of greatness. It’s something you don’t really forget, and it’s definitely very special.”

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