Qucik Intro: Wayne Gretzky
For all those who are curious, here is a quick intro: Wayne Gretzky, a hockey player who spent most of his NHL career with the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings. Nearly unanimously considered the best hockey player to ever live, he is known as “The Great One.”
Gretzky was born in Ontario and while he possessed none of the standard gifts of superstar athletes, his feel and natural understanding of hockey quickly had him playing with boys much older than himself. In 1978, at age 17, he was drafted into the World Hockey Association and played for the Edmonton Oilers. When this league folded, the Oilers joined the NHL.
In his first full season, he won the league Most Valuable Player award and he began a slow ascent up the ranks of the greatest scorers, seemingly setting records every year. While on his way to winning seven consecutive scoring titles, he became the only player to score 200 points in a season, something he would do for a total of four times. Gretzky would lead the Oilers to four championships in the five seasons from 1983-1984 to 1987-1998.
In the summer of 1988, under details that even today are not entirely clear, Gretzky was traded by owner Peter Pocklington to the Los Angeles Kings, a move that caused an uproar throughout the entire nation of Canada. At the time Gretzky was dating LA-based actress Janet Jones and some speculate that Jones was behind Gretzky’s efforts to push for a trade. Pocklington has said the trade—which brought in $15 million, as well as players—was needed for the financial solvency of the team.
Gretzky helped the Kings’ franchise enormously, making the team more competitive on the ice and increasing attendance. Ultimately, however, he would not win another Stanley Cup, either with the Kings, the St. Louis Blues, for whom he played one season, or the New York Rangers, with whom he ended his career.
When he retired in 1999, he held forty regular-season records and fifteen playoff records. His scoring prowess remains unrivaled. He averaged nearly two points per game over his career (only Mario Lemieux is within slapshot distance of that number) and has more assists than any other player has total points. His number 99 jersey has been retired by the NHL and no team can give it out.
For further reading: Brunt, Stephen. “Gretzky's Tears: Hockey, America, and the Day Everything Changed.” 2009. Triumph Books.