Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Douglas Gretzky, (born January 26, 1961) is a former professional ice hockey player and current head coach and part owner of the Phoenix Coyotes. Born in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, he is known as The Great One, and almost universally considered to be the greatest player of all time.

Position: Centre
Shoots: Left
Height: 6 ft (1.83 m)
Weight: 185 lb (84 kg)

Early Years
Taught by his father Walter, Gretzky was seen as a classic prodigy. At age 6 he was skating with 10-year-olds. At 10 he scored 378 goals and 120 assists in 85 games, and the first story on him was published in the Toronto Telegram (now the Toronto Sun). At 14, playing against 20-year-olds, he left Brantford to further his career. He also signed with his first agent.

He played one year in the Ontario Hockey League, at the age of 16, with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. There he began wearing the number 99 on his jersey. He had wanted 9 — for his hero Gordie Howe — but it was already being worn by another teammate. At Coach Muzz MacPherson's suggestion Gretzky settled on 99. The next year (1978-79) he signed with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association (WHA) as an underaged player.

WHA career
The NHL was not keen on signing players under the age of 18, but the WHA had no rules regarding such signings. Nelson Skalbania, the owner of Indianapolis Racers, signed the 17 year old future superstar, Wayne Gretzky to, at that time, a whopping personal contract worth between $1.125 and 1.75 million US over 4 to 7 years. Skalbania, knowing that the WHA was fading, felt owning the young star was more valuable than owning a WHA team. But, needing cash, only eight games into the 1978-79 WHA season, Skalbania liquidated his greatest asset to his old friend and former partner Peter Pocklington, owner of the Edmonton Oilers. Pocklington purchased Gretzky and two other Indianapolis players, goaltender Eddie Mio and forward Peter Driscoll, paying $700,000 for the contracts of the three players, although the announced price was actually $850,000. On Gretzky's 18th birthday, the 26th of January, 1979, Pocklington signed him to a 21-year personal services contract, the longest in hockey history, worth $4-5 million US. Gretzky would go on to capture the Lou Kaplan Trophy for rookie of the year, finish third in league scoring (110 points), and help the Oilers to first overall in the league. That would be Gretzky's only season in the WHA, as it folded following the Avco World Trophy finals.

NHL career
Gretzky played on four different NHL teams over a 20 year period: The Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, and New York Rangers

Wayne Gretzky hoisting the 1984 Stanley CupAfter the World Hockey Association folded in 1979, four teams, including the Edmonton Oilers, joined the National Hockey League. The success enjoyed on the ice by Gretzky in the WHA carried over into the NHL despite critics expecting otherwise. The critics expected him to fail in the bigger, tougher, more talented NHL. But in only his first NHL season, 1979-80, Gretzky proved his critics wrong and was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy as the League's Most Valuable Player (the first of eight in a row) and tied for the scoring lead with Marcel Dionne with 137 points (Dionne was awarded the Art Ross Memorial Trophy as the league's leading scorer because he had scored more goals, even though Gretzky played fewer games). Gretzky, though, was not eligible for the Calder Memorial Trophy, given to the top NHL rookie, because of his previous year of professional experience. The rule, however, was changed a few years later. Teemu Selänne is a case in point of this rule change.

In his second season, Gretzky won the Art Ross Trophy (the first of seven consecutive years) with a single-season record 164 points, and won his second straight Hart Trophy. He also broke both Bobby Orr's record for assists in a season and Phil Esposito's record for points in a season. In Gretzky's third season, 1981-82, Gretzky surpassed one of the game's most cherished records — 50 goals in 50 games — set by Maurice "Rocket" Richard during the 1944-45 NHL season and tied by Mike Bossy during the 1980-81 NHL season. On December 30, 1981, in Edmonton's 39th game, Gretzky scored his 50th goal of the season (and fifth of the game) into an empty net in the final seconds of a 7-5 win against Philadelphia. On 24 February, 1982, Gretzky continued his record-breaking tear by breaking Esposito's record for most goals in a season (76), when he scored four goals to help beat the Buffalo Sabres, 6-3. He ended that 1981-1982 season with records of 92 goals, 120 assists, and 212 points in 80 games.

The following seasons would see Gretzky break his own assists record three more times (125, 135, and 163) and his point record one more time (215). He would also go onto break dozens of records and set standards that to this day still stand. By the time he finished playing in Edmonton, he held or shared 49 NHL records, which in itself was a record.

The Edmonton Oilers finished their last WHA season first overall in the regular season. When they came to the NHL, they didn't find the same success right away. But within 4 seasons, the Oilers were competing for the Stanley Cup. The Oilers were a young, strong team featuring forwards Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, and Jari Kurri, defenceman Paul Coffey, goaltender Grant Fuhr, and Gretzky as its captain. In 1983, they made it to the Stanley Cup finals, only to be swept by the three-time defending champion New York Islanders. The following season, the Oilers met the Islanders in the Finals again, this time winning their first of five Stanley Cups over the next seven years. Gretzky was part of 4 Cup wins with the Oilers.

" The Trade"
Wayne Gretzky traded to the Los angles Kings in 1988 on August 9, 1988, in a move that drastically changed the dynamics of the NHL, Gretzky was traded with Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski by the Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, $15 million cash, and the Kings' first-round draft picks in 1989, 1991, and 1993. "The Trade," as it came to be known, upset Canadians to the extent that one lawmaker demanded the government block it, and Pocklington was burned in effigy. Gretzky himself was considered a "traitor" by many Canadians for turning his back on his adopted hometown, his home province, and his home country. After "The Trade", Gretzky's personal popularity sank across Canada.

Gretzky's first season in Los Angeles saw a marked increase in attendance and fan interest in a city not previously known for following ice hockey. The Kings, who then played their home games at the Great Western Forum, boasted numerous sellouts on their way to reaching the 88-89 playoffs. Despite being heavy underdogs against his old squad, Gretzky led the new-look Kings on and off the ice to a shocking upset of the defending Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers, as Gretzky led his team back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series 4-3. Many credit Gretzky's arrival with putting Southern California on "the NHL map"; now California is home to three NHL franchises.

Gretzky's time with the Kings reached its peak when he led the team to its first Cup finals in 1993. After winning the first game of the series, however, the team lost the next four in a row to the Montreal Canadiens. The team began a long slide that continued despite numerous player and coaching moves and failed to even qualify for the playoffs again until 1998. Long before that, running out of time and looking for a team with which he could win again, Gretzky had been traded from the Kings at his request. On the 27th of February, 1996 he joined the St. Louis Blues in a trade for Patrice Tardif, Roman Vopat, Craig Johnson, and draft picks. While he scored 37 points in 31 games for the team (regular season and playoffs), and they got within one overtime game of the Conference finals, he never clicked with the team or with sniper Brett Hull on the ice as well as many had expected. On July 21, he signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent, rejoining Mark Messier.

He ended his professional career with the Rangers, playing his final three seasons there and helping the team reach the conference finals in 1997. His last NHL game in Canada was on the 16th of April, 1999, and his final game was a 2-1 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on the 18th of April. The national anthems in that game were adjusted to accommodate Gretzky's departure. "O Canada, we stand on guard for thee" was changed to "We're going to miss you Wayne Gretzky". The Star-Spangled Banner was changed from "the land of the free" to "the land of Wayne Gretzky". Gretzky was named as the first, second, and third star of both the 16th and 18th of April games.

In 2003, Gretzky took to the ice one last time to help celebrate the Edmonton Oilers' 25th anniversary as an NHL team. The Heritage Classic was the first NHL game to be played outdoors. Preceding the NHL game was an exhibition game that reunited Gretzky and many of the old-guard Oilers against a superstar Montreal Canadiens team. The game was subsequently released on DVD.

NHL Records
Wayne Gretzky held or shared 61 NHL records upon his retirement on the 18th of April, 1999. He had 40 regular season records, 15 playoff records, and 6 all-star records.

Some of the more impressive regular season records include most goals in a season (92), most assists in a season (163), and most points in a season (215). He also holds the record for the fastest 50 goals in 50 games or less, which he did in only 39 games and the most goals in 50 games (61, which he did twice). In 1982-83, he had a 51 game point scoring streak that has been compared to Joe DiMaggio's streak in baseball. During Gretzky's point-scoring streak, he had 61 goals and 92 assists for 153 points.

He had dominated the playoffs like he had dominated the regular season. His 47 points in 1985 and his 31 assists in 1988 are still records for a playoff year. He is the career playoff leader in goals (122), assists (260), points (382), hat tricks (10), and game winning goals (24). These playoff numbers appear to be untouchable.

His career regular season stats are equally as impressive. He has the record for most career regular season goals (894), assists (1,962), points (2,856), and hat tricks (50). The next closest player in total points is Mark Messier with 1887 points.

His total points including regular season and playoffs is an impressive 3,238.

Amazing Stats and Facts
- Gretzky is the youngest player to score 50 goals.
- Marcel Dionne's best single season point total in his career was 137 points. Gretzky matched that in his first year. In fact, Gretzky didn't have fewer than 137 points in a season until over 10 years later in 1991-92 when he had 121.
- He was not considered a rookie in his first year, but he still holds the record for most points (137) in a season by a first-year player (second is Teemu Selänne with 132) and most assists (86). He also has the most points (8) and assists (7) in one game by a first-year player.
- Bobby Orr is one of the greatest players in NHL history. In Gretzky's second season, he broke Orr's record for most assists in one season (102) with 109. Gretzky did not have fewer than 102 assists until the 1991-92 season.
- In his second season, he broke the NHL record for most points (152) held by superstar Phil Esposito with 164. In doing so, he also became the first player to average more than two points a game in the modern NHL. Mario Lemieux is the only other player in the NHL to do that.
- In his third season, Gretzky did what many thought was impossible. First, he scored 50 goals in 39 games. Next, he broke Esposito’s record for most goals in a season (76). Then, he hit the 200-point plateau. He finished the season setting new records with 212 points, 92 goals, and 120 assists.
- After scoring 212 points the year before, he had what many people called a "disappointing" season in 1982-83 with only 196 points. Even though he had a "disappointing" season, he still set a new record for assists with 125.
-Gretzky is the only player to reach 200 points in a season. He did it four times in 5 years between 1981-82 and 1985-86.
- In 1983-84, Gretzky set a record with a 51-game point scoring streak. During that streak, he had 61 goals and 92 assists for 153 points. That is exactly three points a game, which is amazing considering that he had a separated shoulder for much of that streak. After that streak ended, he took 6 games off to rest his shoulder.
- Gretzky has scored the magical 50 goals in 50 games or less three times in his career, more than anyone else. Brett Hull did it twice.
- Considering that only one player besides Gretzky has ever averaged two points a game in a season, what he did in 1985-86 is truly astounding. He averaged over 2 assists a game that season. He had 163 assists in 80 games and still managed to score 52 goals.
- In 1989, he broke Gordie Howe's record for most points in a career. It took Howe 26 years to get 1850 points. It took Gretzky only 10. Gretzky averaged over 180 points a season for those 10 years. His average was better than anyone else's best (except for Mario Lemieux. Lemieux achieved over 180 points once in his career).
- Only two players besides Gretzky have ever had 100 assists in an NHL season. Mario Lemieux did it once with 114. Bobby Orr also did it once with 102. Gretzky did it 11 times consecutively. During that streak, his best season (1985-86) he had 163 assists and his worst season (1989-90) he had 102. He holds the top eight spots in the record books for most assists in a season.
- He had 1669 points in 696 games while playing in Edmonton.
- Wayne Gretzky scored more goals than anyone else in hockey history. Ignoring all of Gretzky's goals, however, he still would have won the Art Ross Trophy for leading scorer four times and still would have more career points than anyone else(!). His 1963 career assists are more than Gordie Howe's 1850 and Mark Messier's 1887 points.
- Gretzky played a total of 1788 professional ice hockey regular and playoff season games in the NHL and WHA, amassing 1072 goals and 2297 assists for a total of 3369 points. Gordie Howe is second in all three categories with 1071 goals, 1518 assists, and 2589 points.

He won nine Hart Trophies, the NHL's most valuable player award, and eight of these were awarded in consecutive years from 1980-1987. In fact, Gretzky holds the record for most MVP awards of any player in American professional sports.

Hart Memorial Trophy (most valuable player) -1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989
Art Ross Trophy (scoring champion) -1981, 1982 ,1983 ,1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1994
Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff most valuable player) - 1985, 1988
Lester B. Pearson Award (outstanding player, voted by the players) -1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (most gentlemanly player) -1980, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1999
NHL Plus/Minus Award (best plus-minus rating) -1982, 1984, 1985, 1987
Chrysler-Dodge/NHL Performer of the Year -1985, 1986, 1987
Lester Patrick Trophy (outstanding service to hockey in the United States) -1994
NHL All-Star Game MVP-1983, 1989, 1999
NHL First All-Star Team-1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1991
NHL Second All-Star Team-1980, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1994, 1997, 1998

Honours and Accolades

Hockey Hall of Fame

He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 22, 1999, becoming the tenth player to by-pass the three-year waiting period. The NHL then stated that he would be the last player to do so. His daily "journal" was syndicated throughout Canada's newspapers detailing his personal thoughts and feelings about his induction as the day neared. It was also announced that no other player would ever wear the number "99" again. His number was retired league-wide.

Male Athlete of the Decade
In 1982, Gretzky became the first hockey player and first Canadian to be named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. He was also named Sports Illustrated Magazine's 1982 "Sportsman of the Year." In 1990, the AP named him Male Athlete of the Decade.

Order of Canada
Gretzky was named an officer of the Order of Canada on June 25, 1984, during his heyday with the Edmonton Oilers, for outstanding contribution to the sport of hockey. Since the Order ceremonies are always held during the hockey season, it took 13 years, seven months and two days Governors-General before Gretzky could accept the honour.

Greatest Hockey Player
In 1997, prior to his retirement, The Hockey News named a committee of 50 hockey experts (former NHL players, past and present writers, broadcasters, coaches and hockey executives) to select and rank the 50 greatest players in NHL history. The experts voted Gretzky number one, ahead of the once seemingly incomparable Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe.

Fifth Greatest Athlete
In 1999, ESPN named Gretzky the fifth greatest athlete of the 20th century. Gretzky, the most honoured player in a team sport with nine MVP awards, was voted No. 5 among North American athletes by SportsCentury's distinguished 48-person panel. Only Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, and Jim Brown preceded him.

The Wayne Gretzky Trophy
The Ontario Hockey League has named a trophy after the Great Gretzky. The OHL hands out the Wayne Gretzky Trophy to the winner of the Western Conference each year.