- Height: 6'0"
- Weight: 185 lbs.
- Date Of Birth: January 26, 1961
- Hometown: Brantford, Ontario, Canada
- Position: Center
- Shoots: Left
Great sports players are born all the time, whether we realize it or not, but it usually takes a little while for the greatness in the individual to reveal itself. However, there are some whose greatness is evident from an early age. Wayne Gretzky, “The Great One,” was such a player. Considered by most to be the greatest hockey player to ever live, Gretzky started displaying his awesome abilities at a very young age.
Gretzky was born on January 26, 1961 in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. His father taught him to play hockey by leaving a sprinkler running in the backyard all winter and therefore creating their own pond. Walter Gretzky was tough on his son, always pushing him to improve and to never accept mediocrity. This paid off, for Gretzky was constantly playing at a level above his peers. At the tender age of six he was playing against ten-year-olds, and when he turned ten he scored an incredible 517 points in an 85 game season with the Nadrofsky Steelers. By age fourteen he was playing hockey in the Junior B Hockey League in Toronto, where in two years he earned Rookie of the Year and scored a combined 132 points in only 60 games. In 1978, when he was seventeen, Gretzky became the youngest member to play in the World Junior Championships. In that same year, he also led Canada to a bronze medal, led the tournament in scoring, and was named to the All-Star team.
During the 1978-1979 season Gretzky signed a deal to play hockey for the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association. He did not play in the NHL due to the fact that he was seventeen, and the NHL did not allow underage players. After only eight games with the Racers, Gretzky was sold to the Edmonton Oilers, and he signed with them on his eighteenth birthday. That year he won Rookie of the Year, topped the league in scoring, and helped the Oilers reach the title game. This turned out to be Gretzky’s only year in the WHA, as the league folded the following year. However, Gretzky stayed with the Oilers when the team moved on to join the National Hockey League (NHL).
Gretzky took the NHL by storm, winning the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s MVP. He missed winning the Art Ross Trophy the first year, given to the league’s top scorer, by one goal. He was not eligible for Rookie of the Year honors due to his previous professional experience. Gretzky’s career with the Oilers is nothing short of spectacular. He won seven consecutive Art Ross Trophies, broke and set records for points (215), assists (163), and goals (92) in a season. When he tallied 212 points in the 1981-1982 season, he became the only player in NHL history to score 200 or more points in a season. The Oilers also won four Stanley Cup Championships under Gretzky – 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1988 – and he won two Conn Smith Trophies as the playoff’s MVP.
In August of 1988, Gretzky was involved in a deal that sent him to the Los Angeles Kings; the deal has become to be known as simply “The Trade.” The deal caused much outrage in Canada, but brought a much needed boost to hockey in California. Gretzky spent eight very successful years with the Kings, during which attendance skyrocketed and hockey popularity soared not only in L.A., but in other regions in the country. While with the Kings, Gretzky broke the all-time goals record formally held by Gordie Howe. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in February 1996, but only spent one year with the team. He signed as a free agent with the New York Rangers before the 1996-1997 season.
“The Great One’s” incredible career came to a close after three years with the Blues and 21 years in the NHL. His career totals include 894 goals, 1,963 assists, and 2,857 points. He holds a combined 61 NHL regular season, playoffs, and all-star game records. He won ten Art Ross Trophies, and nine Hart Trophies, including eight in a row from 1980-1987.
Career Highlights, Awards, and Accolades:
- Won Lou Kaplan Trophy in 1979 as WHA Rookie of the Year.
- Won Hart Memorial Trophy as NHL’s MVP: 1980-87.
- Won Art Ross Trophy as NHL’s top scorer: 1981-87, 1990, 1991, and 1994.
- Won Conn Smith Trophy as NHL playoff MVP: 1985, and 1988.
- Won Lester B. Pearson Award for NHL outstanding player, voted by his peers: 1982-85, 1987.
- Awarded Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship: 1980, 1991-92, 1994, and 1999.
- Voted Chrysler-Dodge/NHL Performer of the Year: 1985-87.
- Awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1994 for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.
- Awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canadian Athlete of the Year: 1982-83, 1985, and 1989.
- Three-time NHL All-Star MVP: 1983, 1989, and 1999.
- Eight-time NHL First All-Star Team: 1981-87, and 1991.
- Seven-time NHL Second All-Star Team: 1980, 1988-90, 1994, 1997, and 1998.
- In 1984 named an Officer of the Order of Canada.
- Elected to the Hockey Hall of fame on November 22, 1999.
- Holds all-time record with 92 goals in a season.
- Holds all-time record with 215 points in a season.
- Holds all-time record with 163 assists in a season.
- Only player in NHL history to score 200 or more points in a season.
- Holds all-time record in career points with 2,857.