Profile of Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky is one of the best Ice Hockey players to ever grace the NHL. He played for five teams during his illustrious career that spanned across 20 seasons. He played as a centre and won four Stanley Cups in the 80s. His achievements have led many to call him the greatest hockey player ever, and at the time he retired in 1999, he held a whopping 61 NHL records.

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Wayne Douglas Gretzky was born in 1961 in Brantford, Ontario. He learnt to play hockey on a rink his dad Walter made in the backyard of the family home. His talent shone through at a very early age, and by the time he turned six years old, he was already playing against kids years older than him. He was better than them too.

After moving at 14 to play hockey in Toronto, Wayne played Junior B hockey with the Toronto Nationals. Again, he was playing against people years older than him. Marie Greyhounds picked up Gretzky in the 1977 Ontario Major Junior Hockey League draft of 16-year-olds, and it was here that he first wore the special number 99 jersey.

Wayne signed for the Indianapolis Racers in 1978 at just 17 years of age. He penned a lucrative $1.75 million deal and scored his first professional goal against the Edmonton Oilers, who were the team he would choose to play for after only eight matches with Indianapolis.

One of the standouts from his first year with the Oilers was the 1979 WHA All-Star Game in which he helped his side to a 3-0 series win. Then after the WHA folded that year, the Oilers joined the NHL along with three other sides. This is where Gretzky started to excel.

He spent nearly a decade in Canada before moving to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988. After a brief spell in 1996 at the St Louis Blues, he played out the rest of his career in the east at New York Rangers. We could continue for hours to explain how well he did with each team he played for, but the truth is he was just a phenomenon. He broke records wherever he went and was at the top of his game until his very last game, which was a 2-1 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 18th 1999. A date that will live long in the memory of all NHL fans.

After retiring, Gretzky made several TV appearances and wrote numerous best-selling books. But in 2016, he made a return to Ice Hockey as a partner and vice-chairman of the Oilers’ parent company, Oilers Entertainment Group. He stepped down from that role in May 2021, and now enjoys retired life with his family.

He’ll go down as one of the living legends – here are the honors he picked up during a superb career in the NHL and for his country, with perhaps to the most significant of them all being the NHL retiring the 99 jersey league-wide:

  • Lou Kaplan Trophy — 1979
  • Hart Memorial Trophy — 1980–87, 1989
  • Art Ross Trophy — 1981–87, 1990, 1991, 1994
  • Charlie Conacher Humanitarian Award — 1980
  • Conn Smythe Trophy — 1985, 1988
  • Lester B. Pearson Award — 1982–85, 1987
  • Lady Byng Memorial Trophy — 1980, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1999
  • NHL Plus-Minus Award (best plus-minus rating; formerly Emery Edge Trophy) — 1984, 1985, 1987
  • Stanley Cup — 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988
  • Canada Cup — 1984, 1987, 1991
  • Chrysler-Dodge/NHL Performer of the Year — 1985, 1986, 1987
  • Dodge/NHL Performance of the Year Trophy — 1989
  • Lester Patrick Trophy — 1994
  • Lou Marsh Trophy — 1982, 1983, 1985, 1989
  • Lionel Conacher Award — 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1989, 1999
  • NHL All-Star Game MVP — 1983, 1989, 1999
  • NHL MVP — Rendezvous ’87
  • Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year — 1982
  • Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year — 1982
  • New York Rangers MVP — 1997-98
  • Olympic Gold – Hockey (as Executive Director-Manager) — 2002
  • World Cup of Hockey Champion (as Executive Director-Manager) — 2004
  • 8-Time All-NHL First Team (1981–87, 1991)
  • 7-Time All-NHL Second Team (1980, 1988–90, 1994, 1997, 1998)
  • All-WHA Second Team — 1979
  • In 1998, he was ranked number 1 on The Hockey News’ list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players
  • Hockey Hall of Fame 1999 Inductee
  • Officer of the Order of Canada
  • First international recipient of the Horatio Alger Award
  • Received star on Canada’s Walk of Fame
  • AP-Athlete of The Decade, 1980s
  • Ranked #1 Canadian Athlete of the Century
  • Sports Illustrated’s Hockey Player of the Century
  • Ranked #5 in both ESPN SportsCentury and the Associated Press’s Top 100 Athletes of the 20th Century
  • In 2007, he was ranked number 1 in The Hockey News’ book The Top 60 Since 1967
  • In 2010, he was elected as an inaugural inductee into the World Hockey Association Hall of Fame in the “Legends of the Game” category.
  • IIHF Centennial All-Star Team
  • Jersey number 99 retired league-wide by NHL
  • IIHF All-Time Canada Team
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