Hockey, Football, Boxing Legends

The 2023 Rancho Mirage Speaker Series brings an exciting all-star lineup of sports legends to Rancho Mirage. Speakers from three sporting arenas engage audiences with stories of their trials and tribulations, both professionally and personally. After each speaking engagement, the Speaker Series Commission presents an intimate meet and greet with photo opportunities for those purchasing the VIP experience.  

Wayne Gretzky

Widely considered the best to play the game, “The Great One,” NHL Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky is the first to take the stage on January 23. He spent 20 seasons dominating the National Hockey League, unlike any player in history. He holds virtually every offensive record in the NHL and became the league’s all-time leading goal, assist, and point producer for both regular season and playoffs. Gretzky won four Stanley Cup Championships and three Canada Cup tournament titles during his illustrious career.

Upon his retirement in 1999, the NHL bestowed on Gretzky the unique distinction of being the only player in the history of the NHL to have his jersey number retired by all member clubs. Number 99 will never again be worn by an NHL player.

The Wayne Gretzky Foundation is dedicated to helping disadvantaged youngsters throughout North America participate in hockey. Gretzky also gives his time to countless other charitable endeavors, including Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities in Canada and in “Hands That Shape Humanity”, a project for the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre.

Emmitt Smith

The famed Dallas Cowboys running back speaks on February 21. As the NFL’s all-time rushing leader, Emmitt Smith made an impact on the NFL that few players can match. He amassed many records that still stand today, including most career rushing yards and most career rushing touchdowns.

As a first-round pick in the 1990 NFL Draft, Smith was the cornerstone of the Dallas Cowboys offense for 13 seasons and helped in the transformation of the team. Smith’s impressive resume includes three Super Bowl championship wins, eight-time Pro Bowler, induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and being named to the NFL 100 All-Time Team (a prestigious list honoring the best players of the NFL’s first 100 years). His winning ways continued years after stepping off the field. In the third season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” Smith took home the Mirror Ball trophy.

Sugar Ray Leonard

In this corner of the stage, on March 21, closing out the 2023 series is boxing legend and six-time world champion Sugar Ray Leonard. Regarded as one of the greatest fighters of all time, Leonard won world titles in five weight classes, including three lineal championships, and was also the first boxer to earn over $100 million in his career. 

Leonard’s legendary rivalries with Thomas Hearns, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, and Roberto Duran helped propel the popularity of the sport in the welterweight division and earned themselves the nickname, “The Four Kings.” Leonard beat all three of his contemporaries in legendary fights. His only loss against the Four Kings was to Roberto Duran, which he later avenged in the famous “No Mas” fight where Duran quit. 

As an amateur, Leonard was the 1976 Olympic gold medalist. In 2016, The Ring magazine listed Leonard as the greatest living fighter, and he was also listed as the Boxer of the Decade in the 1980s. Outside of the ring, Leonard is the Godfather of media sensation Khloe Kardashian.

Speaker Series moderators

The Rancho Mirage Speaker Series will be moderated by two talented sports professionals. Sportnet’s Christine Simpson teams with Wayne Gretzky on January 23. As a reporter for the NHL, her interviews appear on Hockey Night in Canada and Scotiabank Wednesday Night Hockey. In 1994, she watched the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase with Gretzky on the rooftop patio at Wayne Gretzky’s Restaurant in downtown Toronto.

Sibley Scoles, host of Raiders: Talk of the Nation and in-game host for the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders, chats with Emmitt Smith and Sugar Ray Leonard. Scoles has previously hosted the NFL Pro Bowl Red Carpet in Las Vegas, featuring some of the NFL’s top Pro Bowl athletes, along with the NFL Draft Red Carpet.

Event information

The speaker series will be held at The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Rancho Mirage (32-250 Bob Hope Dr, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270).

Tickets are available for individual speakers (Wayne Gretzky, Emmitt Smith, and Sugar Ray Leonard) and for the full series. Doors open at 6 p.m. for each event, and speakers take the stage at 7 p.m. A VIP Meet and Greet follows each event at 8:15 p.m. Series ticket pricing is below:

  • Mezzanine –@ $ 150.00 for 3 events per person
  • Loge –@ $175.00 for 3 events per person
  • Orchestra –@ $225.00 for 3 events per person
  • Front Row –@ $300.00 for 3 events per person
  • Boxes –@ $350.00 for 3 events per person, with no food or Meet & Greet
  • VIP Boxes –@ $475.00 for 3 events per person, with food and Meet & Greet

Series ticket purchasers receive significant discounts on their ticket purchase and the first 1,000 will be granted free admission to the Acrisure Arena to watch the CV Firebirds’ home game against the San Diego Galls on Sunday, January 22, 2023. With the VIP package, the $475 ticket gets you box seats, food, special meet and greets, and photos with all three sports legends: Wayne Gretzky, Emmitt Smith, and Sugar Ray Leonard.