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L E’s Stories – “The Great One Was Born To Be A Hockey Legend” – Tribute To Wayne Gretsky

Growing up as a kid Sportsphile in West Texas, winter sports were very foreign to Bone Daddy, except for snow skiing….as his family began to take winter ski vacations to Ruidoso, New Mexico and Golden, Colorado when he was 8 years old…..but the sport of ice hockey was only a passing fancy….cuz the region of West Texas never saw an ice rink until some time after the Miracle on Ice at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics….when the young upstart USA team defeated the mighty Russians….which was an event that catapulted ice hockey into the American consciousness.  However, as the years passed, and during the time that Bone Daddy opened and operated his sports bar, Madison Square Garden, The Sports Place at 302 E. 6th Street in downtown Austin, Texas from the mid-1970’s to 1991….that is when he developed a love for the sport….which had a great deal to do with the exploits of the NHL player they called The Great One, Wayne Gretsky….who completely rewrote the NHL record book during his playing career from 1978 to 1999.  Since then, BD refers to the sport of ice hockey as the most physical and violent sport in the universe of sports…..saying “Ice Hockey is a sport where checking an opponent is like a blind-sided block or tackle in football….except the players are put in sharp-bladed skates….which allows them to skate a speeds of 20 to 30 miles per hour while checking their opponents against the boards (the hard wooden walls around the ice rink)….and then they give the players hockey sticks made of a solid piece of wood with which to confront their opponents during play and take shots while propelling a hockey puck (made of vulcanized rubber or other approved material, one inch thick and three inches in diameter and shall weigh between 5 ½ ounces and 6 ounces and be black in color) at speeds of 100 mph (170 kmph).  So, if an opponents full speed check against the boards doesn’t get you….then the 100 mph hard rubber puck will….which explains why most hockey players have a mouthful of false teeth.”  During the years from 1978 to 1991, Bone Daddy became a huge fan of Wayne Gretsky, The Great One…..which makes this story dedicated to him an easy one to write…..for there are many sports legends that were made and developed…. but only a few that were born to be a legend…..and The Great One was one of those.

 

NHL – 1078 To 1999 – Documentary – Wayne Gretsky: “Above And Beyond”

 

Wayne Gretzky is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player and former head coach….who played 20 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for four teams from 1979 to 1999.  Nicknamed The Great One, he has been called the greatest hockey player ever by many sportswriters, players, the NHL itself….as well as by The Hockey News….which is based on extensive surveys of hockey writers, ex-players, general managers and coaches.   Gretzky is currently the leading goal scorer, assist producer and point scorer in NHL history…..albeit he retired 22 years ago….and garnered more assists in his career than any other player scored total points.  He is the only NHL player to total over 200 points in one season….which was a feat he accomplished four times….plus, Gretzky tallied over 100 points in 16 professional seasons….with 14 of them being consecutive.  At the time of his retirement in 1999, he held 61 NHL records….with 40 regular season records ….15 playoff records…..and 6 All-Star records.

 

 

NHL – 2018 – Now This News Special – “In Search Of Greatness” With Wayne Gretzky

 

Born and raised in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, Gretzky honed his skills at a backyard rink his dad had built…..and regularly played minor hockey at a level far above his peers…..when despite his unimpressive stature and strength…..albeit his intelligence, stamina, and reading of the game were unrivaled…..for he was adept at dodging checks from opposing players….and consistently anticipated where the puck was going to be….while he executed the right move at the right time…..as he became known for setting up behind his opponent’s net….which was an area that was nicknamed “Gretzky’s office”.

 

NHL – 1978 To 1999 – Special – Wayne Gretzky: “All Time Leader In Goals And Points”

 

Gretzky was the top scorer in the 1978 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships….then in June of 1978, he signed with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association (WHA)….where he briefly played before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers….and when the WHA folded, the Oilers joined the NHL….where he established many scoring records and led his team to four Stanley Cup championships.  Gretzky’s trade to the Los Angeles Kings on August 9, 1988, had an immediate impact on the team’s performance….and ultimately leading them to the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals…. as he is credited with popularizing hockey in California.  Gretzky played briefly for the St. Louis Blues before finishing his career with the New York Rangers…..a career in which he captured nine Hart Trophies as the most valuable player….10 Art Ross Trophies for most points in a season….two Conn Smythe Trophies as playoff MVP…..and five Lester B. Pearson Awards (now called the Ted Lindsay Award) for most outstanding player…..as judged by his peers.  He led the league in goal-scoring five times and assists 16 times.  He also won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship and performance five times…..and often spoke out against fighting in hockey.                

NHL & Entertainment – 2015 – The Late Show With Stephen Colbert – With Wayne Gretzky – On How He Earned His Nickname “The Great One”                                             

After his retirement in 1999, Gretzky was immediately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame….thus making him the most recent player to have the waiting period waived…..then the NHL retired his jersey number 99 league-wide….while making him the only player to receive such an honor.  Gretzky was one of six players voted to the International Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF) Centennial All-Star Team.  Gretzky became executive director for the Canadian national men’s hockey team during the 2002 Winter Olympics….in which the team won a gold medal.  In 2000, he became part-owner of the Phoenix Coyotes….and following the 2004–05 NHL lock-out….that is when he became the team’s head coach.  In 2004, Gretzky was inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.  In September 2009, following the Phoenix Coyotes’ bankruptcy, Gretzky resigned as head coach and relinquished his ownership share.  In October 2016, he became partner and vice-chairman of Oilers Entertainment Group.

 

NHL – 2001 – ESPN Sports Century – Wayne Gretzky: “The Great One”                 

Wayne Douglas Gretzky was born on January 26, 1961, in Brantford, Ontario, the son of Phyllis Leone (Hockin) and Walter Gretzky….who had married in 1960 and lived in an apartment in Brantford….where Walter worked for Bell Telephone Canada.   The family moved into a house on Varadi Avenue in Brantford seven months after Wayne was born….which was chosen partly because its yard was flat enough to make an ice rink in winter.  Wayne was joined by a sister, Kim (born 1963) and brothers Keith, Glen and Brent….and the family would regularly visit the farm of Wayne’s grandparents, Tony and Mary….and watch Hockey Night in Canada together.  By age two, Wayne was trying to score goals against Mary using a souvenir stick.  The farm was where Wayne skated on ice for the first time at age two years, 10 months…. which all provides evidence that he was destined to become The Great One. Walter taught Wayne, Keith, Brent, Glen and their friends hockey on a rink he made in the back yard of the family home, nicknamed the “Wally Coliseum” Drills included skating around Javex bleach bottles and tin cans….while flipping pucks over scattered hockey sticks to be able to pick up the puck again in full flight.  Additionally, Walter gave the advice to “skate where the puck’s going, not where it’s been”….which made Wayne a classic prodigy….whose extraordinary skills made him the target of jealous parents.  The team Gretzky played on at age six was otherwise composed of 10-year-olds…..when his 1st coach, Dick Martin, remarked that he handled the puck better than the 10-year-olds.  According to Martin, “Wayne was so good that you could have a boy of your own who was a tremendous hockey player, and he’d get overlooked because of what the Gretzky kid was doing.”  The sweaters for 10-year-olds were far too large for Gretzky….who coped by tucking the sweater into his pants on the right side….which was something that Gretzky continued doing throughout his NHL career.

 

NHL – 2019 – USA Today Sports Interview With Larry Berger – With Wayne Gretzky On Playing In The Right Era

 

By age 10, Gretzky had scored an astonishing 378 goals and 139 assists in just one season with the Brantford Nadrofsky Steelers.  His play attracted media attention beyond his hometown of Brantford….which included a profile by John Iaboni in the Toronto Telegram in October 1971.  In the 1974 Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament, Gretzky scored 26 points playing for Brantford.  By age 13, he had scored over 1,000 goals….as his play attracted considerable negative attention from other players’ parents….which included those of his teammates….and he was often booed…..when according to Walter, the “capper” was being booed on “Brantford Day” at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens in February 1975.  When Gretzky was 14, his family arranged for him to move to and play hockey in Toronto….while partly to further his career….and partly to remove him from the uncomfortable pressure he faced in his hometown….for the Gretzkys had to legally challenge the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association to win Wayne the right to play in a different area….which was disallowed at the time.  The Gretzkys won….and Wayne played Junior B hockey with the Toronto Nationals….which was a league that included 20-year-olds….when he earned Rookie of the Year honors in the Metro Junior B Hockey League in 1975–76 with 60 points in 28 games….and the following year, as a 15–16-year-old, he had 72 points in 32 games with the same team….which was renamed the Seneca Nationals.

 

Hockey – 1975 – Special – Wayne Gretzky’s Quest To Become A Toronto National At Age 14

 

Despite his offensive statistics of scoring 132 points in 60 games in Junior B….that is when two teams actually bypassed him in the 1977 Ontario Major Junior Hockey League draft of 16-year-olds….when the Oshawa Generals picked Tom McCarthy 1st….and the Niagara Falls Flyers picked Steve Peters 2nd overall….then with the 3rd pick, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds selected Gretzky, even though Walter Gretzky had told the team Wayne would not move to Sault Ste. Marie….which was a northern Ontario city that inflicted a heavy travelling schedule on its junior team…..so, the Gretzkys made an arrangement with a local family they knew….and Wayne played for the Greyhounds at age 16…..for it was with the Greyhounds that Gretzky 1st wore the # 99 on his jersey…..as he originally wanted to wear # 9….cuz of his hockey hero Gordie Howe….but it was already being worn by teammate Brian Gualazzi….so, at coach Muzz MacPherson’s suggestion, Gretzky settled on 99.

 

Hockey – 1977 – Special Footage – Wayne Gretzky Playing In The World Juniors At Age 16

 

In 1978, the World Hockey Association (WHA) league was in competition with the established NHL…..but the NHL did not allow the signing of players under age 20….whereas the WHA had no rules regarding such signings….so, several WHA teams courted Gretzky….with most notably the Indianapolis Racers and the Birmingham Bulls.  Birmingham Bulls owner John F. Bassett wanted to confront the NHL by signing as many young and promising superstars as possible….and saw Gretzky as the most promising young prospect….however, it was Racers owner Nelson Skalbania who on June 12, 1978 signed 17-year-old Gretzky to a 7 year personal services contract worth US$1.75 million…..when Gretzky scored his 1st professional goal against Dave Dryden of the Edmonton Oilers in his 5th game….and his 2nd goal four seconds later.  Skalbania opted to have Gretzky sign a personal-services contract rather than a standard player contract in part because he knew a deal to take some WHA teams into the NHL was in the works….while he also knew that the Racers could not hope to be included among those teams…. and hoped to keep the Racers alive long enough to collect compensation from the surviving teams when the WHA dissolved….as well as any funds earned from selling the young star.

 

Hockey – 1977 – CBC Archives Special – Wayne Gretzky: “Before He Made The NHL”                                                                                                                           

Gretzky played only eight games for Indianapolis….when the Racers were losing $40,000 per game….so, Skalbania told Gretzky he would be moved while offering him a choice between the Edmonton Oilers and the Winnipeg Jets…..when on the advice of his agent, Gretzky picked the Oilers….but the move was not that simple…..as on November 2nd, Gretzky, goaltender Eddie Mio and forward Peter Driscoll were put on a private plane….while not knowing where they would land….and what team they would be joining. While in the air, Skalbania worked on the deal….when he offered to play a game of backgammon with Winnipeg owner Michael Gobuty….with the stakes being if Gobuty won, he would get Gretzky….and if he lost, he had to give Skalbania a share of the Jets….but Gobuty turned down the proposal and the players landed in Edmonton…..as Mio paid the $4,000 bill for the flight with his credit card…..and Skalbania sold Gretzky, Mio and Driscoll to his former partner, and then-owner of the Edmonton Oilers, Peter Pocklington…..and albeit the announced price was $850,000, Pocklington actually paid $700,000.  The money was not enough to keep the Racers alive and they folded that December.  One of the highlights of Gretzky’s season was his appearance in the 1979 WHA All-Star Game.  The format was a three-game series between the WHA All-Stars and Dynamo Moscow played at Edmonton’s Northlands Coliseum. The WHA All-Stars were coached by Jacques Demers….who put Gretzky on a line with his boyhood idol Gordie Howe and Howe’s son, Mark….when in game one, the line scored seven points….and the WHA All-Stars won by a score of 4–2…..then in game two, Gretzky and Mark Howe each scored a goal and Gordie Howe picked up an assist as the WHA won 4–2…..and although the line did not score in the final game the WHA won by a score of 4–3.

 

WHA – 1978 – Indianapolis Racers Special Highlights – Wayne Gretzky:  “His Wild Year In The WHA”

 

On Gretzky’s 18th birthday, January 26, 1979, Pocklington signed him to a 10-year personal services contract (the longest in hockey history at the time) worth C$3 million….with options for 10 more years….when Gretzky finished 3rd in the league in scoring at 110 points, behind Robbie Ftorek and Réal Cloutier….as Gretzky captured the Lou Kaplan Trophy as Rookie of the Year….and helped the Oilers to 1st place in the league….as the Oilers reached the Avco World Trophy finals…. where they lost to the Winnipeg Jets in six games.  It was Gretzky’s only year in the WHA, as the league folded following the season.  After the World Hockey Association folded in 1979, the Edmonton Oilers and three other teams joined the NHL…..when under the merger agreement the Oilers, like the other surviving WHA teams, were to be allowed to protect two goaltenders and two skaters from being reclaimed by the established NHL teams in the 1979 NHL Expansion Draft…. so the Oilers kept Gretzky on their roster….while making him a “priority selection”.

 

WHA & NHL – 1978 – CTV Archives Special – Wayne Gretzky: “From The WHA Indianapolis Racers To The Edmonton Oilers”

 

Gretzky’s success in the WHA carried over into the NHL….albeit some critics suggesting he would struggle in what was considered the bigger, tougher and more talented league.  In his first NHL season, 1979–80, Gretzky was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player….which was the 1st of 8 in a row….and he tied for the scoring lead with Marcel Dionne with 137 points…..although Gretzky played 79 games to Dionne’s 80….as Dionne was awarded the Art Ross Trophy because he had scored more goals (53 to 51)….however, the season still stands as the highest point total by a 1st-year player in NHL history….plus, Gretzky became the youngest player to score 50 goals….but was not eligible for the Calder Memorial Trophy, given to the top NHL rookie, because of his previous year of WHA experience.  The Calder was instead awarded to Boston Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque.  In his second season, Gretzky won the Art Ross (the first of seven consecutive) with a then-record 164 points….while breaking both Bobby Orr’s record for assists in a season with 102….and Phil Esposito’s record for points in a season with 152….as he won his 2nd straight Hart Trophy.  In the first game of the 1981 Stanley Cup playoffs, against the Montreal Canadiens, Gretzky had five assists….which is still a single game playoff record.

 

NHL – 1978 To 1999 – Wayne Gretzky Highlights – “The Greatest One”                                    

During the 1981–82 season, Gretzky surpassed a record that had stood for 35 years by scoring 50 goals in 50 games….which was 1st set by Maurice “Rocket” Richard during the 1944–45 NHL season….and tied by Mike Bossy during the 1980–81 NHL season…..as Gretzky accomplished the feat in only 39 games….when his 50th goal of the season came on December 30, 1981 in the final seconds of a 7–5 win against the Philadelphia Flyers….and was his 5th goal of the game.  Later that season, Gretzky broke Esposito’s record for most goals in a season with 76 on February 24, 1982….while scoring three to help defeat the Buffalo Sabres 6–3.  He ended the 1981–82 season with records of 92 goals….120 assists….and 212 points in 80 games….thus becoming the only player in NHL history to break the two hundred-point mark.  That year, Gretzky became the 1st hockey player and 1st Canadian to be named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year….plus, he was also named 1982 “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated.  The Canadian Press also named Gretzky Newsmaker of the Year in 1982.  The following seasons saw Gretzky break his own assists record three more times with 125 in 1982–83….135 in 1984–85….and 163 in 1985–86….plus he broke his point record one more time with 215 in 1985–86.  By the time he finished playing in Edmonton, he held or shared 49 NHL records.

 

NHL – 1980 – Highlights – Edmonton Vs Toronto – Featuring Wayne Gretzky Scoring 6 Pts

 

The Edmonton Oilers finished 1st overall in their last WHA regular season…. but the same success was not immediate when they joined the NHL…but within four seasons, the Oilers were competing for the Stanley Cup….as they were a young, strong team featuring, in addition to Gretzky, future Hall of Famers including forwards Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and Jari Kurri…. defenseman Paul Coffey….and goaltender Grant Fuhr.  Gretzky was its captain from 1983 to 1988.  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….while this time winning the Stanley Cup….which was their 1st of five in seven years.  

 

NHL 1983 – Playoff & Stanley Cup Highlights – New York Islanders Vs Edmonton Oilers

 

Gretzky was named an officer of the Order of Canada on June 25, 1984….for outstanding contribution to the sport of hockey….but since the Order ceremonies are always held during the hockey season, it took 13 years and 7 months and two Governors General before he could accept the honor.  He was promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2009 “for his continued contributions to the world of hockey, notably as one of the best players of all time, as well as for his social engagement as a philanthropist, volunteer and role model for countless young people” Five times between 1981–82 and 1986–87, Gretzky led the NHL in goals scored.  The Oilers also won the Stanley Cup with Gretzky in 1985, 1987 and 1988.                                        

 

NHL – 1978 To 1999 – CBC Special – “The Life And Times Of Wayne Gretzky”

 

When the Oilers joined the NHL, Gretzky continued to play under his personal services contract with Oilers owner Peter Pocklington….as this arrangement came under increased scrutiny by the mid-1980’s, especially following reports that Pocklington had used the contract as collateral to help secure a $31 million loan with the Alberta government-owned Alberta Treasury Branches…..then amid growing concern around the NHL that a financial institution might be able to lay claim to Gretzky’s rights in the event the heavily leveraged Pocklington were to declare bankruptcy….as well as growing dissatisfaction on the part of Gretzky and his advisers….that’s when in 1987, Gretzky and Pocklington agreed to replace the personal services contract with a standard NHL contract.

 

NHL & Movie – 2002 – Network Productions Film – “Legends Of The Game” – Wayne Gretzky

 

Gretzky had a major influence on the style of play of the Edmonton Oilers and in the NHL as a whole….while helping to inspire a more team-based strategy. Using this approach, the Oilers, led by Gretzky, became the highest scoring team in NHL history.  “He was, I think, the first Canadian forward to play a true team game”, said hockey writer and former NHL goaltender Ken Dryden.  The focus of the game prior to Gretzky’s arrival, he said, especially among the Canadian teams, was on the player with the puck….while getting the puck to a star player who would make the big play. “Gretzky reversed that….as he knew he wasn’t big enough, strong enough, or even fast enough to do what he wanted to do if others focused on him.  Like a magician, he had to direct attention elsewhere, to his four teammates on the ice with him, to create the momentary distraction in order to move unnoticed into the open ice where size and strength didn’t matter….as Gretzky made his opponents compete with five players, not one, and he made his teammates full partners to the game. He made them skate to his level and pass and finish up to his level or they would be embarrassed.”  Between 1982 and 1985, the Edmonton Oilers averaged 423 goals a season….when no previous team had scored 400….and Gretzky on his own had averaged 207 points, when no player before had scored more than 152 in one year. Dryden wrote in his book The Game, “In the past, defenders and teams had learned to devise strategies to stop opponents with the puck. To stop them without it, that was interference. But now, if players without the puck skated just as hard as those with it, but faster, and dodged and darted to open ice just as determinedly, but more effectively, how did you shut them down?”  In this, Gretzky added his considerable influence as the preeminent NHL star of his day to that of the Soviets….who had also developed a more team-style of play….and had successfully used it against the best NHL teams, beginning in the 1972 Summit Series. “The Soviets and Gretzky changed the NHL game”, says Dryden. “Gretzky, the kid from Brantford with the Belarusian name, was the acceptable face of Soviet hockey. No Canadian kid wanted to play like Makarov or Larionov. They all wanted to play like Gretzky.”  

 

NHL – 1980 To 1988 – Edmonton Oilers Special – “Wayne Gretzky & Jari Kurri Magic”                                                                                                                            

At the same time, Gretzky recognized the contributions of their coach in the success of the Oilers….while saying “Under the guidance of Glen Sather, our Oiler teams became adept at generating speed, developing finesse, and learning a transition game with strong European influences.”  Gretzky explains his style of play further while saying “People think that to be a good player you have to pick the puck up, deke around ninety-three guys and take this ungodly slap shot.  No.  Let the puck do all the moving and you get yourself in the right place.  I don’t care if you’re Carl Lewis, you can’t outskate that little black thing.  Just move the puck: give it up, get it back, give it up. It’s like Larry Bird.  The hardest work he does is getting open.  The jumpshot is cake.  That’s all hockey is: open ice.  That’s my whole strategy: Find Open Ice.”  Chicago coach Mike Keenan said it best: “There’s a spot on the ice that’s no-man’s land, and all the good goal scorers find it.  It’s a piece of frozen real estate that’s just in between the defense and the forward.”

 

NHL – 1981 – Special Highlights – Wayne Gretzky’s 5 Goals To Make It 50 In 39 Games

 

Two hours after the Oilers won the Stanley Cup in 1988, Gretzky learned from his father that the Oilers were planning to deal him to another team…. as Walter Gretzky had known for months after having been tipped off by Skalbania….but kept the news from Wayne so as not to upset him.  According to Walter, Wayne was being “shopped” to Los Angeles, Detroit, and Vancouver….as Pocklington needed money as his other business ventures were not doing well.  At first, Gretzky did not want to leave Edmonton….but he later received a call while on his honeymoon from Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall….who asked permission to meet and discuss the deal….when Gretzky informed McNall that his prerequisites for a deal to take place were that Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski join him as teammates in Los Angeles….whereby both McNall and Pocklington quickly agreed.  After the details of the trade were finalized by the two owners, one final condition had to be met…..which was that Gretzky had to call Pocklington and request a trade.  When Pocklington told Oilers general manager and head coach Sather about his plans to trade Gretzky to Los Angeles….that’s when Sather tried to stop the deal….but when he found out that Gretzky had been involved in the negotiations, he changed his attitude and requested Luc Robitaille in exchange….but the Kings refused, instead offering Jimmy Carson.

 

NHL – 1988 – Special – Wayne Gretzky News Conference – On Being Traded By Edmonton Oilers To The Los Angeles Kings

 

NFL – 2016 – Graham Benzinger Interview With Wayne Gretzky – “I Thought I Was Untradeable”

 

On August 9, 1988, in a move that heralded significant change in the NHL, the Oilers traded Gretzky (along with McSorley and Krushelnyski) to the Kings for Carson, Martin Gélinas, $15 million in cash, and the Kings’ 1st-round draft picks in 1989 (later traded to the New Jersey Devils, who used it to select Jason Miller), 1991, (used to select Martin Ručínský) and 1993, (used to select Nick Stajduhar).  “The Trade”, as it came to be known, upset Canadians to the extent that New Democratic Party House Leader Nelson Riis demanded the government block it….and Pocklington was burned in effigy outside Northlands Coliseum.  Gretzky himself was considered a “traitor” by some Canadians for turning his back on his adopted hometown and his home country.  His motivation was widely rumored to be the furtherance of his wife’s acting career.

 

NHL – 2020 – NHL Trade Trees Special – The Great One:  “How The 1988 Wayne Gretzky Trade Is Still Evolving Today”

 

In Gretzky’s first appearance in Edmonton after the trade, a game nationally televised in Canada, he received a four-minute standing ovation.  The arena was sold out, and the attendance of 17,503 was the Oilers’ biggest crowd ever to that date.  Large cheers erupted for his 1st shift, his 1st touch of the puck, his two assists, and Mark Messier’s body check of Gretzky into the boards.  After the game, Gretzky took the opportunity to confirm his patriotism: “I’m still proud to be a Canadian. I didn’t desert my country. I moved because I was traded and that’s where my job is. But I’m Canadian to the core. I hope Canadians understand that.”  After the 1988–89 season, a life-sized bronze statue of Gretzky was erected outside Northlands Coliseum, holding the Stanley Cup over his head.

 

NHL – 1988 – Special Highlights – “Memories:  Gretzky’s 1st Game With The Kings” – Red Wings Vs Kings

 

The Kings named Gretzky their alternate captain. He made an immediate impact on the ice, scoring on his 1st shot on goal in the 1st regular season game.  The Kings got off to their best start ever….while winning four straight en route to qualifying for the playoffs….when despite being underdogs against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Edmonton Oilers in the Smythe Division semifinals….that’s when Gretzky led the Kings to a shocking upset of his old squad….while spearheading the Kings’ return from a 3–1 series deficit to win the series 4–3.  He was nervous Edmonton would greet him with boos, but they were eagerly waiting for him.  For only the 2nd time in his NHL career, Gretzky finished 2nd in scoring…..but narrowly edged the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Mario Lemieux (who scored 199 points) for the Hart Trophy as MVP.   In 1990, the Associated Press named Gretzky Male Athlete of the Decade.  Gretzky’s 1st season in Los Angeles saw a marked increase in attendance and fan interest in a city not previously known for following hockey….as the Kings now boasted of numerous sellouts….while many credit Gretzky’s arrival with putting non-traditional American hockey markets on “the NHL map”….for not only did California receive two more NHL franchises (the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and San Jose Sharks) during Gretzky’s tenure in Los Angeles….but his popularity in Southern California proved to be an impetus in the league establishing teams in other parts of the U.S. Sun Belt.

 

NHL – 1988 – Special Highlights – Kings Vs Oilers – Featuring Gretzky’s Returns To Edmonton

 

Gretzky was sidelined for much of the 1992–93 regular season with a back injury….and his 65-point output ended a record 13-year streak in which he recorded at least 100 points each season…..however, he performed well in the playoffs, notably when he scored a hat trick in game seven of the  Campbell Conference Finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs.  This victory propelled the Kings into the Stanley Cup Finals for the 1st time in franchise history….where they faced the Montreal Canadiens…..when after winning the first game of the series by a score of 4–1, the team lost the next three games in overtime….and then fell 4–1 in the deciding 5th game where Gretzky failed to get a shot on net.

 

NHL – 1993 – Campbell Conference Finals – Game 7 – Los Angeles Kings Vs Toronto Maple Leafs – Featuring Wayne Gretzky Hat Trick

 

The next season, Gretzky broke Gordie Howe’s career goal-scoring record of 801….and won the scoring title….but the team began a long slide….and despite numerous player and coaching moves, they failed to qualify for the playoffs again until 1998.  After the financially troubled McNall was forced to sell the Kings in 1994, Gretzky’s relationship with the Kings’ new owners grew strained.  Under both McNall and the new ownership group, the team was fiscally unstable, to the point that paychecks to players bounced.  Finally, in early 1996, Gretzky requested a trade.  During the 1994–95 NHL lock-out, Gretzky and some friends (including Mark Messier, Marty McSorley, Brett Hull and Steve Yzerman) formed the Ninety Nine All Stars Tour and played eight exhibition games in various countries.

 

NHL – 1994 – Special Highlight – Wayne Gretzky Scores 802nd Goal Passing Gordie Howe For NHL Goals Scored Record

 

On February 27, 1996, Gretzky joined the St. Louis Blues in a trade for Patrice Tardif, Roman Vopat, Craig Johnson and two draft picks (Peter Hogan and  Matt Zultek).  He partially orchestrated the trade after reports surfaced that he was unhappy in Los Angeles.  At the time of the trade, the Blues and New York Rangers emerged as front-runners, but the Blues met his salary demands.  Gretzky was immediately named the team’s captain. He scored 37 points in 31 games for the team in the regular season and the playoffs, and the Blues came within one game of the Conference Finals…. however, the chemistry everyone (in particular, Gretzky himself) expected with winger Brett Hull never developed…..plus Gretzky also struggled to develop a rapport with St. Louis head coach Mike Keenan.  Keenan had been Gretzky’s coach for the 1987 and 1991 Canada Cups….so he was already well-familiar with “Iron Mike’s” disciplinarian style long before agreeing to a trade to St. Louis….however, Gretzky was shocked and angered when the Blues’ coach publicly criticized him….and their relationship never recovered. Gretzky rejected a three-year deal worth $15 million with the Blues, and on July 21, signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent, rejoining longtime Oilers teammate Mark Messier for a two-year, $8 million (plus incentives) contract.

 

NHL – 1996 Special Highlights – The Story Of: Wayne Gretzky’s Brief Time In St. Louis

 

The Great One ended his professional playing career with the New York Rangers….where he played his final three seasons….and helped the team reach the Eastern Conference Finals in 1997.  The Rangers were defeated in the Conference Finals in five games by the Philadelphia Flyers, despite Gretzky leading the Rangers in the playoffs with 10 goals and 10 assists.  For the first time in his NHL career, Gretzky was not named captain, although he briefly wore the captain’s “C” in 1998 when captain Brian Leetch was injured and out of the line-up.  After the 1996–97 season, Mark Messier signed a free agent contract with the Vancouver Canucks, ending the brief reunion of Messier and Gretzky after just one season.  The Rangers did not return to the playoffs until 2006, well after Gretzky retired.  Along with Jaromir Jagr, he topped the NHL in 1997–98 with 67 assists….as it was the 16th time in 19 seasons that Gretzky earned at least a share of the league lead in the statistic.

 

NHL – 1996 To 1999 – New York Rangers Special – Wayne Gretzky: “The Great One’s Last Hurrah”

 

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 # 1….whereas Gretzky said he would have voted Bobby Orr or Gordie Howe as the best of all time.  The 1998–99 season was his last as a professional player….when he reached one milestone by breaking the professional total (regular season and playoffs) goal-scoring record of 1,071….which had been held by Gordie Howe.  Gretzky was having difficulty scoring this season and finished with only nine goals, contributing to this being the only season in which he failed to average at least a point per game….but his last goal brought his scoring total for his combined NHL/WHA career to 1,072….which was one more than Howe.  As the season wound down, there was media speculation that Gretzky would retire….but he refused to announce his retirement. His last NHL game in Canada was on April 15, 1999, a 2–2 tie with the Ottawa Senators and the Rangers’ second-to-last game of the season.  Following the contest, in a departure from the usual three stars announcement, Gretzky was awarded all three stars.  Upon returning to New York, Gretzky announced he would retire after the Rangers’ last game of the season.  The final game of Gretzky’s career was a 2–1 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 18, 1999, in Madison Square Garden.  Although the game involved two American teams, both national anthems were played, with the lyrics slightly adjusted to accommodate Gretzky’s departure.  In place of the lyrics “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee”, Bryan Adams ad-libbed, “We’re going to miss you, Wayne Gretzky”.  “The Star-Spangled Banner”, as sung by John Amirante, was altered to include the words “in the land of Wayne Gretzky”.  Gretzky ended his career with a final point, assisting on the lone New York goal scored by Brian Leetch.  At the time of his retirement, Gretzky was the second-to-last WHA player still active in professional hockey….as Mark Messier, who attended the game along with other representatives of the Edmonton Oilers’ dynasty, was the last.

 

NHL – 1997 – NY Rangers Special – “Wayne Gretzky 50th Career Hat Trick”

 

Gretzky told journalist Scott Morrison that the final game of his career was his greatest day….as he recounted by saying My last game in New York was my greatest day in hockey…Everything you enjoy about the sport of hockey as a kid, driving to practice with mom [Phyllis] and dad [Walter], driving to the game with mom and dad, looking in the stands and seeing your mom and dad and your friends, that all came together in that last game in New York.”

 

NHL – 1999 – Complete HNIC Broadcast Special – Wayne Gretzky’s Final NHL Game

 

Gretzky’s size and strength were unimpressive—in fact, far below average for the NHL—but he is widely considered the smartest player in the history of the game.  His reading of the game and his ability to improvise on the fly were unrivaled….and he could consistently anticipate where the puck was going to be and execute the right move at the right time.  His coach at the Edmonton Oilers, Glen Sather, said, “He was so much more intelligent. While they were using all this energy trying to rattle his teeth, he was just skating away, circling, analyzing things.”  He was also considered one of the most creative players in hockey. “You never knew what he was going to do“, said hockey Hall of Famer Igor Larionov. “He was improvising all the time. Every time he took the ice, there was some spontaneous decision he would make. That’s what made him such a phenomenal player.”  Gretzky’s ability to improvise came into the spotlight at the 1998 Olympics in Japan. Then an older player in the sunset of his career, he had been passed over for the captaincy of the team. But as the series continued, his unique skills made him a team leader.  The Canadians had trouble with the big ice….as they had trouble with the European patterns….and the lateral play and the endless, inventive cycling…. but slowly, as game after game went by and the concern continued to rise, Wayne Gretzky began climbing through the line-up.  He, almost alone among the Canadians, seemed to take to the larger ice surface as if it offered more opportunity instead of obligation…. and his playing time soared….as he was being sent on not just for power plays but double shifts and even penalty kills….so, by the final round … it was Wayne Gretzky who assumed the leadership both on and off the ice….when he passed and shot with prodigious skill.  Hall of Fame defenseman Bobby Orr said of Gretzky, “He passes better than anybody I’ve ever seen.”  In his first two seasons in the NHL, his deft passing skills helped earn him a reputation as an ace playmaker….and so opposing defensemen focused their efforts on foiling his attempts to pass the puck to other scorers….but in response, Gretzky started shooting on goal himself with exceptional effectiveness….for he had a fast and accurate shot.  “Wayne Gretzky was one of the most accurate scorers in NHL history”, said one biography….as statistics support the contention….whereas Phil Esposito, who had set the previous goal-scoring record, needed 550 shots to score 76 goals….The Great One netted his 76th after only 287 shots….which was about half as many.  He scored his all-time record of 92 goals with just 369 shots…..and because he was so light compared to other players, goalies were often surprised by how hard Gretzky’s shot was….when goalies called his shots “sneaky fast.” He also had a way of never shooting the puck with the same rhythm twice, making his shots harder to time and block.

 

NHL – 1978 To 1999 – Special Highlights – Top 10 Wayne Gretzky Moments

 

When he entered the league in 1979, critics opined that Gretzky was “too small, too wiry, and too slow to be a force in the [NHL].” His weight was 160 pounds (73 kg), compared to the NHL average of 189 pounds (86 kg) at that time….but that year, Gretzky tied for 1st place in scoring….and won the Hart Trophy for the league’s most valuable player.  In his second year in the league, weighing just 165 pounds, he broke the previous single-season scoring record by racking up 164 points.  The next year (1981–82), at 170 pounds….and still “a wisp compared to the average NHL player”—he set the all-time goal-scoring record, putting 92 pucks in the net.  He weighed “about 170 pounds” for the better part of his career….as he consistently scored last in strength tests among the Edmonton Oilers….while bench pressing only 140 pounds (64 kg)….but despite his lack of strength, Gretzky had remarkable physical stamina…..and like his hero, Gordie Howe, Gretzky possessed “an exceptional capacity to renew his energy resources quickly.” In 1980, when an exercise physiologist tested the recuperative abilities of all of the Edmonton Oilers, Gretzky scored so high that the tester said he “thought the machine had broken.”  His stamina was also indicated by the fact that Gretzky often scored late in the game….as evidenced in the year he scored his record 92 goals….when 22 of them went in the net during the 1st period….30 in the 2nd….and 40 in the 3rd.

 

NHL – 2018 – NHL Network Countdown – Top 25 Wayne Gretzky Records

 

He also had strong general athletic skills.  Growing up, he was a competitive runner and also batted .492 for the Junior Intercounty Baseball League’s Brantford CKCP Braves in the summer of 1980.  As a result, he was offered a contract by the Toronto Blue Jays.  History repeated itself in June 2011, when Gretzky’s 17-year-old son, Trevor, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. Trevor signed with the Cubs the next month.  Gretzky also excelled at box lacrosse….which he played during the summer….when at age ten, after scoring 196 goals in his hockey league, he scored 158 goals in lacrosse.  According to him, lacrosse was where he learned to protect himself from hard checks: “In those days you could be hit from behind in lacrosse, as well as cross-checked, so you had to learn how to roll body checks for self-protection.”  Gretzky adroitly applied this technique as a professional player, avoiding checks with such skill that a rumor circulated that there was an unwritten rule not to hit him.  Defensemen found Gretzky a most elusive target….as fellow Hockey Hall of Famer Denis Potvin compared attempting to hit Gretzky to “wrapping your arms around fog. You saw him but when you reached out to grab him your hands felt nothing, maybe just a chill.”  The 205-pound (93 kg) Potvin, a three-time winner of the Norris Trophy for best defenseman, added that part of the problem in hitting Gretzky hard was that he was “a tough guy to dislike… what was there to hate about Gretzky? It was like running Gandhi into a corner.”  He received a good deal of cover from burly Oiler enforcers Dave Semenko and Marty McSorley…..as McSorley was traded with Gretzky in 1988 to the Los Angeles Kings….where he played the same policeman role for several more years.  But Gretzky discouraged unfair hits in another way. “If a guy ran him, Wayne would embarrass that guy”, said former Oiler Lee Fogolin. “He’d score six or seven points on him. I saw him do it night after night.”

 

NHL – 2017 – Patrick Bet-David Interview With Wayne Gretzky – “On The Demands of Being the Greatest of All Time”

 

Commentators have noted Gretzky’s uncanny ability to judge the position of the other players on the ice—so much so that many suspected he enjoyed some kind of extrasensory perception.  Sports commentators said that he played like he had “eyes in the back of his head.”  Gretzky said he sensed other players more than he actually saw them. “I get a feeling about where a teammate is going to be”, he said. “A lot of times, I can turn and pass without even looking.”  Veteran Canadian journalist Peter Gzowski says that Gretzky seemed to be able to, in effect, slow down time.  “There is an unhurried grace to everything Gretzky does on the ice. Winding up for the slapshot, he will stop for an almost imperceptible moment at the top of his arc, like a golfer with a rhythmic swing. Gretzky uses this room to insert an extra beat into his actions. In front of the net, eyeball to eyeball with the goaltender … he will … hold the puck one … extra instant, upsetting the anticipated rhythm of the game, extending the moment. … He distorts time, and not only by slowing it down. Sometimes he will release the puck before he appears to be ready, threading the pass through a maze of players precisely to the blade of a teammate’s stick, or finding a chink in a goaltender’s armour and slipping the puck into it … before the goaltender is ready to react.”

 

NHL – 2016 – Graham Benzinger Interview With Wayne Gretzky – On Eating 4 Hot Dogs With A Diet Coke As Pregame Meal

NHL – 2016 – Graham Benzinger Interview With Wayne Gretzky – On Skating  Alone As A Kid For Hours

 

However, Gretzky denied that he had any exotic innate abilities. He said that many of his advantages were a result of his father’s brilliant coaching.  Some say I have a sixth sense” … Baloney. I’ve just learned to guess what’s going to happen next. It’s anticipation. It’s not God-given, it’s Wally-given. He used to stand on the blue line and say to me, Watch, this is how everybody else does it….then he’d shoot a puck along the boards and into the corner and then go chasing after it….and he’d come back and say, ‘Now, this is how the smart player does it.’….and he’d shoot it into the corner again, only this time he cut across to the other side and picked it up over there.  Who says anticipation can’t be taught? “‘

 

Special & Hockey – 2017 – HGTV Special With Tommy Visiting Walter Gretzky At Their Family Home In Brantford, Ontario – The Home Where Wayne Gretzky Grew Up

NHL – 2008 – Special – Shawn Kelly Interviews Walter Gretzky (Wayne’s Father) In The Home Wayne Grew Up In

 

Gretzky learned much about hockey from his father on a backyard rink at his home….as Walter Gretzky had been an outstanding Junior B hockey player. He cultivated a love of hockey in his sons and provided them with a backyard rink and drills to enhance their skills.  On the backyard rink, nicknamed the “Wally Coliseum”, winter was total hockey immersion with Walter as mentor-teacher as well as teammate. Walter’s drills were his own invention, and were ahead of their time in Canada.  Gretzky would later remark that the Soviet National Team’s practice drills which impressed Canada in 1972…had  nothing new to offer him: “I’d been doing these drills since I was three. My Dad was very smart.”  In his autobiography, Gretzky describes how at practices his father would drill him on the fundamentals of smart hockey:

Him: “Where’s the last place a guy looks before he passes it?”
Me: “The guy he’s passing to.”
Him: “Which means…”
Me: “Get over there and intercept it.”
Him: “Where do you skate?”
Me: “To where the puck is going, not where it’s been.”
Him: “If you get cut off, what are you gonna do?”
Me: “Peel.”
Him: “Which way?”
Me: “Away from the guy, not towards him.”

 

 NLH – 2016 – Graham Benzinger Interview With Wayne Gretzky – On His Dad’s Greatest Lessons

 

Special & NHL – March 6, 2021 – City News Toronto Covers The Funeral Of Walter Gretzky – As Wayne Gretzky Remember Him As The Perfect Dad

 

Gretzky also salutes his coach at the Edmonton Oilers, Glen (“Slats”) Sather, as an important influence in his development as a hockey player. Gretzky played for 10 years with the Oilers, with Sather as coach. “It’s as if my father raised me until age 17, then turned me over to Slats and said, ‘You take him from here.'”  Where Gretzky differed from others in his development was in the extraordinary commitment of time on the ice. “From the age of 3 to the age of 12, I could easily be out there for eight to 10 hours a day”, Gretzky has said.  In his autobiography, he wrote: All I wanted to do in the winters was be on the ice. I’d get up in the morning, skate from 7:00 to 8:30, go to school, come home at 3:30, stay on the ice until my mom insisted I come in for dinner, eat in my skates, then go back out until 9:00.”  When asked how he managed, at age ten, to score 378 goals in a single season, Gretzky explained, See, kids usually don’t start playing hockey until they’re six or seven.  Ice isn’t grass. It’s a whole new surface and everybody starts from ground zero. … By the time I was ten, I had eight years on skates instead of four, and a few seasons’ worth of ice time against ten-year-olds. So I had a long head start on everyone else.”

 

NHL – 1978 To 1988 – Edmonton TV Special – “Gretzky: The King Of Hockey” – A Look At His Decade With The Oilers

 

Much has been written about Gretzky’s highly developed hockey instincts…. but he once explained that what appeared to be instinct was in large part, the effect of his relentless study and practice of the game, in co-operation with his coaches….and as a result, he developed a deep understanding of its shifting patterns and dynamics.  Peter Gzowski says that the best of the best athletes in all sports understand the game so well….and in such detail, that they can instantly recognize and capitalize upon emerging patterns of play. Analyzing Gretzky’s hockey skills, he says, “What we take to be creative genius is in fact a reaction to a situation that he has stored in his brain as deeply and firmly as his own phone number.”  Gzowski presented this theory to Gretzky, and he fully agreed. “Absolutely”, Gretzky said. “That’s a hundred percent right. It’s all practice. I got it from my Dad.  Nine out of ten people think it’s instinct, and it isn’t.  Nobody would ever say a doctor had learned his profession by instinct; yet in my own way I’ve put in almost as much time studying hockey as a medical student puts in studying medicine.”  Gretzky was named honorary chairman of the Open Ice Summit, held in August 1999 to discuss ways to improve Canadian ice hockey.  He stressed the need to play and practice hockey for the love of the game, and felt that skill was more important to develop than talent and that Canada had the potential to be world leaders in skill development.

 

NHL – 1978 To 1999 – Special Highlights – Wayne Gretzky Career Milestones

 

The Great One was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 22, 1999…while becoming the 10th player to bypass the three-year waiting period….then the Hall of Fame announced that he would be the last player to do so.  He was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2000.  In addition, Gretzky’s jersey number 99 was retired league-wide at the 2000 NHL All-Star Game….which was a decision inspired by Major League Baseball’s retirement of the number 42 worn by Jackie Robinson.  In October 1999, Edmonton honored Gretzky by renaming one of Edmonton’s busiest freeways, Capilano Drive – which passes by Northlands Coliseum – to Wayne Gretzky Drive.  Also in Edmonton, the local transit authority assigned a rush-hour bus route numbered No. 99 which also runs on Wayne Gretzky Drive for its commute.

 

Entertainment & NHL – 1996 – The David Letterman Show – With Wayne Gretzky + Mark Messier

 

In 2002, the Kings held a jersey retirement ceremony and erected a life-sized statue of Gretzky outside the Staples Center; the ceremony was delayed until then so that Bruce McNall, who had recently finished a prison sentence, could attend.  Also in 2002, Gretzky received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto.  His hometown of Brantford, Ontario, renamed Park Road North to “Wayne Gretzky Parkway” as well as renaming the North Park Recreation Centre to The Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre. Brantford further inducted Gretzky into its “Walk of Fame” in 2004.  On May 10, 2010, he was awarded The Ambassador Award of Excellence by the LA Sports & Entertainment Commission.  Gretzky was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players in 2017.

 

NHL – 1999 – NHL Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony – Wayne Gretzky – Pt 1

 

NHL – 1999 – NHL Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony – Wayne Gretzky Speech – Part 2

 

Gretzky was Executive Director of the Canadian men’s hockey team at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.  On February 18, he lashed out at the media at a press conference, frustrated with media and fan comments regarding his team’s uninspiring 1–1–1 start.  His temper boiled over after Canada’s 3–3 draw versus the Czech Republic, as he launched a tirade against the perceived negative reputation of Team Canada amongst other national squads, and called rumors of dissent in the dressing room the result of “American propaganda”. “They’re loving us not doing well”, he said, referring to American hockey fans online when they began calling Gretzky a “crybaby”….whereas defenders said he was merely borrowing a page from former coach Glen Sather to take the pressure off his players.  Gretzky addressed those comments by saying he spoke out to protect the Canadian players….and the tirade was not “staged”.  The Canadian team won the gold medal, its first in 50 years.

 

Olympics – 2002 – Salt Lake Winter Games – Hockey Competition – Wayne Gretzky’s Speech At The 2002 Olympic Games

 

Gretzky again acted as Executive Director of Canada’s men’s hockey team at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, though not with the success of 2002….as the team was eliminated in the quarterfinals and failed to win a medal.  He was asked to manage Canada’s team at the 2005 Ice Hockey World Championships, but declined due to his mother’s poor health.  In 2010, Gretzky, Steve Nash, Nancy Greene and Catriona Le May Doan participated in the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.  In this photo, they finish lighting up the cauldron before the Games begin.  Gretzky also served as an ambassador and contributor in Vancouver winning the bidding process to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. He went to Prague, Czech Republic and was part of the presentation team.

 

Hockey – 1987 – Canada Cup Highlights – Featuring Wayne Gretzky + Mario Lemieux

 

While serving as a judge on Dance Fever, Gretzky met actress Janet Jones. According to Gretzky, Jones does not recall his being on the show.  They met regularly after that, but did not become a couple until 1987 when they ran into each other at a Los Angeles Lakers game that Gretzky and Alan Thicke were attending.  Gretzky proposed in January 1988,  and they were married on July 16, 1988, in a lavish ceremony the Canadian press dubbed “The Royal Wedding” Broadcast live throughout Canada from Edmonton’s St. Joseph’s Basilica, members of the Fire Department acted as ceremonial guards. The event reportedly cost Gretzky over $1 million US.  He and Jones have five children: Paulina, Ty, Trevor, Tristan, and Emma. Paulina and golfer Dustin Johnson announced their engagement on August 18, 2013.  Ty played hockey at Shattuck-Saint Mary’s, but quit the sport, and attended Arizona State University.  Trevor is a former minor league baseball player.

 

NHL – 1984 – All Star Game Highlights – Featuring Wayne Gretzky’s Four Goals

 

Gretzky’s appeal as a product endorser far surpassed that of other hockey players of his era. By 1995, he was among the five highest-paid athlete endorsers in North America…..with deals from The Coca-Cola Company, Domino’s Pizza, Sharp Corporation and Upper Deck Company among others. Forbes estimates that Gretzky made US$93.8 million from 1990 to 1998….as  he endorsed and launched a wide variety of products, from pillow cases to insurance.  Gretzky is a partner in First Team Sports, a maker of sports equipment and Worldwide Roller Hockey, Inc., an operator of roller hockey rinks.  The video game brand EA Sports included Gretzky in its 2010 title NHL Slapshot….. and he had previously been an endorser for the 989 Sports games Gretzky NHL 2005 and Gretzky NHL 2006.   Gretzky also made an appearance on the music video for Nickelback’s “Rockstar”.  In 2017 as part-owner with Andrew Peller Ltd., Gretzky opened a winery and distillery  bearing the name of Wayne Gretzky Estates in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario….and with products labelled by the trademark, No. 99.  From 1993 to 2020, Gretzky and a business partner operated the Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant near the Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto.  Gretzky has other restaurants opened in 2016 at the Edmonton International Airport and named No. 99 Gretzky’s Wine & Whisky….and in 2018 called Studio 99 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.

 

TV Ads – 1981 – Wayne + Keith Gretzky For 7-Up

TV Ads – 1985 – Wayne Gretzky + Joey Moss For The Mentally Challenged

 

 

TV Ads – 1986 – Wayne Gretzky For Canon Cameras

 

Gretzky has written several books, including Gretzky: An Autobiography (1990), with Rick Reilly, and 99: My Life in Pictures (1999), with John Davidson and Dan Diamond.  His most recent work, 99: Stories of the Game (2016), with Kirstie McLellan Day, was an in-depth look at the history of hockey.  It was the best-selling Canadian book of 2016.

 

NHL – August 9, 1988 – Special – “A Day That Changed The Game Of Hockey”   

 

Gretzky’s career achievements include many awards and honors. He won a record nine Hart Trophies as the most valuable player in the NHL.  Between 1981 and 1994, he won the Art Ross Trophy, presented to the NHL’s season points leader, 10 times.  Gretzky was named the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 1985 and 1988, receiving the Conn Smythe Trophy.  In addition, he earned the Lester B. Pearson Award (now Ted Lindsay Award) on five occasions; the award is given to the NHL’s “most outstanding player”, as determined by National Hockey League Players’ Association members.  The Lady Byng Trophy, awarded for sportsmanship and performance, was presented to Gretzky five times between 1980 and 1999.  A number of awards and trophies have been created under his name. The Wayne Gretzky International Award is presented by the United States Hockey Hall of Fame to honor international individuals who have made major contributions to the growth and advancement of hockey in the United States.  The Wayne Gretzky 99 Award is awarded annually to the Most Valuable Player in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.  The Wayne Gretzky Trophy is awarded annually to the playoff champion of the OHL’s Western Conference.  The Edmonton Minor Hockey Association also has an award named for Gretzky. 

 

NHL – 1985 – Special Footage – Oilers Vs Kings – Gretzky punched by Dave Taylor

 

 

NHL – 1994 – Special Footage – Kings Vs Sharks – “Gretzky Is Pissed At Norton”

 

As I near the conclusion of this story about The Great One….and after watching the incredible talent that is exhibited in the videos seen in this story herewith….it is easy to understand why Wayne Gretsky is a living hockey legend….who was born to be a legend….as his talents and destiny were honed at his backyard ice rink that his Dad built….where he was taught the game of hockey by a master mentor….who happened to be his father…. cuz had he been born to virtually any other father….it is with great certainty that he probably would have never become The Great One….for here was a legend in the sport of hockey who physically just didn’t measure up….except for the fact that his dad began teaching him the concept and mental side of the game starting at age 3….which were lessons taught to a kid that just couldn’t ever get enough ice time in a game that he absolutely loved.  By any standard, Wayne Gretsky was without question the greatest hockey player to ever grace the ice….and if you watch the videos herewith, we are pretty sure that you will agree with us in that assessment….for any way you cut the pie, The Great One surely deserves his tribute here at ImaSportsphile. 

 

NHL – 1999 – Special – A Look Back At Wayne Gretzky’s Last Game

 

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