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Staples Center Gretzky statue: 2-minute penalty for misspelling

September 27, 2011 | 11:30 am

Wayne Gretzky statue
Sculptor Erik Blome was outside Staples Center on Saturday night, taking a blow torch to Wayne Gretzky and Oscar De La Hoya.

No malice intended: Blome captured the two larger-than-life sports heroes in bronze, and he periodically likes to spiff them up when his travels bring him to L.A. He says that treatment with propane fire and wax cleans grit from the statues and keeps the Great Gretzky from oxidizing into the Green Gretzky.

Staples Center put up the Gretzky statue in 2002 (pictured with the real Gretzky, at its unveiling); it depicts him waving farewell to his fans at the end of ice hockey’s greatest career, which included a long stretch with the Los Angeles Kings.

Gretzky has since been joined on the plaza by boxer De La Hoya (2008) and three Los Angeles Lakers icons sculpted by Omri Amrany, Julie Rotblatt-Amrany and Gary Tillery:  Earvin “Magic” Johnson (2004), Jerry West (2011) and broadcaster Chick Hearn (2010). Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would like to be next.

Earlier this year, we chronicled how Staples Center belatedly had gotten around to installing an identifying plaque bearing the artist's name on Gretzky. But while Blome torched away over the weekend, pausing to chat with curious early arrivers prior to a Tony Bennett concert, one onlooker pointed out that the name on the business card he’d given her didn’t match the credit line on the Gretzky statue. The card said Erik Blome. The plaque, Blome discovered on closer inspection, says Eric.

Gretzky Plaque at Staples Center “I found it kind of humorous,”  the sculptor said by phone Monday from the Chicago suburbs.  But not so amusing that he’s letting it slide. Blome says he has sent Staples Center officials an e-mail asking them to correct the error.

The misspelling took him back to 2000, when his statue of six Chicago Blackhawks stars of different eras was installed near the hockey team’s arena (that led to his Staples Center commission). Denis Savard, who often battled Gretzky during their overlapping careers, had been renamed Venis Savard on the plaque, the stray "V" having gotten past the sculptor, the subcontractor who had made the plaque, and proofreaders in the Blackhawks’ front office. Relieved that the “V” hadn’t been a “P,” Blome fixed it on his own dime.

Blome said that discovering the Staples typo didn’t dim his pleasure in seeing how the L.A. public -– even a non-sports crowd -– is drawn to the statues. “I’d never been out there when an audience was looking at them. They have a lot of interest in those sculptures, they hang with them and take pictures of each other posing with them. It’s kind of cool.”

Several people even asked for his autograph, and he obliged. “It’s kind of rare for a sculptor,” said Blome. “I was stunned.”

His most recent monument, dedicated earlier this month in the villlage of Oak Lawn, Ill., is a Sept. 11 First Responder Memorial in which Blome incorporated four 8-foot, twisted steel beams from the wreckage of the World Trade Center into a sculptural reminder of the destruction and heroism of that day.

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-- Mike Boehm

Photo (top): Wayne Gretzky with his bronze likeness outside Staples Center in 2002. Credit: Alexander Gallardo / Los Angeles Times

Photo (center): The plaque on Gretzky statue's pedestal. Credit: Erik Blome

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