Dom Lunardo | April 30th, 2020
99. “The Great One”. “Gretz”. Holding or sharing a grand total of 61 NHL records, will garner you a few nicknames now, won’t it? When you think of the beautiful sport of hockey, it won’t take long for the name, Wayne Gretzky to pop into your head.
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NHL Clubs: Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, New York Rangers
NHL All-Star Game Appearances: 20
Stanley Cups: 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 (All with Edmonton)
Hall-of-Fame Inductee: 1999
Generation after generation has marveled at Gretzky’s on-ice ability, miraculous skill-set, and his ability to score at will. Wayne Gretzky can be described as one of the greatest players in the history of the National Hockey League. One of the most talented players to ever hold a hockey stick. Let’s take a closer look at “the Great One”, what made him so special, and the mark he left on the game.
The Early Days
Like so many hockey players from around the world, Gretzky fell in love with the game from an early age. His humble home located in Brantford, Ontario became his unofficial learning/training ground. Backyards rinks, hours and hours of shooting pucks, and a deep-rooted passion for the game was a staple at the Gretzky household. By the age of 6, Gretzky joined a youth league. He was playing against (and dominating) players up to 4 years older than him. You just knew that there was something special about Gretzky that set him apart from the rest of the kids in his league.
Wayne’s dominance continued as he grew into his teenage years, and in 1977, Gretzky joined the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. His first season in “The Soo”, saw Gretzky tally 70 goals and 112 assists for 182 points in just 64 games. Yes, you may want to read those stats again. It didn’t take long for the National Hockey League to come calling where Gretzky would land in Edmonton, Alberta with the Edmonton Oilers, where the rest, as they say, is history.
Taking the NHL by Storm
Over the course of his illustrious 22-year NHL career, Gretzky suited up for the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, and New York Rangers, winning four Stanley Cups. His trade to the Los Angeles Kings in the summer of 1988 sent shock-waves across the sports world. To this day, the mere thought of Gretzky being moved still raises a few eyebrows from hockey fans from and wide alike. To get into specific stat lines and to list all of his personal and team accomplishments would be an article in and of itself given Gretzky’s’ greatness. Rather, the mark he left on the league, how he almost single-handedly put the Los Angeles Kings, state of California, and the United States of America “on the map” from a hockey perspective is evenly impressive.
In 1,487 career games played, Gretzky scored 894 goals, 1,963 assists, for 2,857 career points. Each of those holds a place in the NHL record books. Wayne’s playoff statistics are also outstandingly tallying 122 goals, 160 assists, for 322 career points in just 208 games played. When you look at his body of work throughout his career it’s remarkable what he was able to accomplish. The more you delve into Gretzky’s career, the more you appreciate how he really did take hockey fans, a league, and a sport by storm.
“The Great One’s” (Extensive) Tool Kit
One of the most significant talking points surrounding Wayne Gretzky is the skills that he possessed both on and off the ice. A born leader, with a passion for winning above all else. Gretzky was a fierce competitor during his playing days. Renowned for being in the right place at the right time. Gretzky was a master with the puck on his stick and loved to find teammates in prime positions to score. Gretzky had the size, smarts, and highest hockey-IQ at the time that he used to full effect. He was intelligent with the puck, super-athletic, and could see openings on opposing goaltenders that the average player simply couldn’t. Gretzky was an elite play-maker and could score at will regardless of the opposition. He had a knack for seeing the ice. He could anticipate plays well before they would materialize. When you put all these traits together, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another player like “The Great One”.
99 in 2020
Today, Wayne Gretzky is still very much involved in hockey and serves as a great ambassador to the sport. As both partner and vice-chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group, Gretzky now focuses on the business side of things with his beloved Edmonton Oilers, who perhaps have the “Next One”, with the likes of Connor McDavid. Gretzky also served as Team Canada’s Executive Director during the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympic Games. The former saw Gretzky and Canada win their first Gold Medal at the event in 50 years. In the eyes of so many hockey fans around the world, Gretzky will always be known as “The Great One”, with his number 99 enshrined and immortalized in hockey greatness.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images