Wayne Gretzky : biography
Wayne Douglas Gretzky, OC ( born January 26, 1961) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player and former head coach. He 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, and the NHL itself. He is the leading point-scorer in NHL history, with more assists than any other player has points, and is the only NHL player to total over 200 points in one season – a feat he accomplished four times. In addition, he tallied over 100 points in 16 professional seasons, 14 of them consecutive. At the time of his retirement in 1999, he held 40 regular-season records, 15 playoff records, and six All-Star records. He won the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship and performance five times, and he often spoke out against fighting in hockey.For his titles, see
- That he’s regarded as the best player in the history of the NHL, see
- That he’s regarded as the greatest by many sportswriters, see Falla, Jack, "The Greatest One Bar None", in Steve Dryden (ed.), The Top 100 NHL Players of All Time, p. 16.
- That many players share the view, see
- That the NHL shares the view, see
- For the records he held at retirement, see
- For his selection to IIHF Centennial All-Star Team, see
Born and raised in Brantford, Ontario, Gretzky honed his skills at a backyard rink and regularly played minor hockey at a level far above his peers. Despite his unimpressive stature, strength and speed, Gretzky’s intelligence and reading of the game were unrivaled. He was adept at dodging checks from opposing players, and he could consistently anticipate where the puck was going to be and execute the right move at the right time. Gretzky also became known for setting up behind his opponent’s net, an area that was nicknamed "Gretzky’s office" because of his adept skills in that area.
In 1978, he signed with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association (WHA), where he briefly played before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers. When the WHA folded, the Oilers joined the NHL, where he established many scoring records and led his team to four Stanley Cup championships. His trade to the Los Angeles Kings on August 9, 1988, had an immediate impact on the team’s performance, eventually leading them to the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals, and 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. Gretzky captured nine Hart Trophies as the most valuable player, ten Art Ross Trophies for most points in a season, five Lady Byng Trophies, five Lester B. Pearson Awards, and two Conn Smythe Trophies as playoff MVP.
After his retirement in 1999, he was immediately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, making him the most recent player to have the waiting period waived. The NHL retired his jersey number 99 league-wide, making him the only player to receive this honour. He 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 lockout he became the team’s head coach. In September 2009, following the franchise’s bankruptcy, Gretzky resigned as coach and relinquished his ownership share.
Influences and skills
Gretzky’s size, strength, and basic athletic abilities were not considered impressive. As an 18-year-old NHL rookie in 1979, he was conspicuously underweight at just . Many critics opined at that time that Gretzky was "too small, too wiry, and too slow to be a force in the NHL".
Although he managed to increase his weight to by the end of his career in 1999, that was still marginally less than the NHL average. During his years with the Oilers, the team conducted individual strength and stamina tests twice per year. According to Gretzky himself, he always finished dead last in peripheral vision, flexibility and strength, and could only bench press . On the other hand, his intelligence and reading of the game was unrivaled, and he could consistently anticipate where the puck was going to be and execute the right move at the right time. Hall of Fame defenceman Bobby Orr said of Gretzky, "He passes better than anybody I've ever seen. And he thinks so far ahead."