Wayne Gretzky

63

Wayne Gretzky : biography

January 26, 1961 –

Gretzky debuted with the Team Canada’s men’s team at the 1981 Canada Cup. He led the tournament in scoring with 12 points en route to a second-place finish to the Soviet Union, losing 8–1 in the final. Seven months later, Gretzky joined Team Canada for the 1982 World Championships in Finland. He notched 14 points in 10 games, including a two-goal, two-assist effort in Canada’s final game against Sweden to earn the bronze. Gretzky did not win his first international competition until the 1984 Canada Cup, when Canada defeated Sweden in a best-of-three finals. He led the tournament in scoring for the second consecutive time and was named to the All-Star Team.

Gretzky’s international career highlight arguably came three years later at the 1987 Canada Cup. Gretzky has called the tournament the best hockey he had played in his life. Playing on a line with Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Mario Lemieux, he recorded a tournament-best 21 points in nine games. After losing the first game of a best-of-three final series against the Soviets, Gretzky propelled Canada with a five-assist performance in the second game, including the game-winning pass to Lemieux in overtime, to extend the tournament. In the deciding game three, Gretzky and Lemieux once again combined for the game-winner. With the score tied 5–5 and 1:26 minutes to go in regulation, Lemieux one-timed a pass from Gretzky on a 3–on–1 with defenceman Larry Murphy. Lemieux scored to win the tournament for Canada; the play is widely regarded as one of the most memorable plays in Canadian international competition.

The 1991 Canada Cup marked the last time the tournament was played under the "Canada Cup" moniker. Gretzky led the tournament for the fourth and final time with 12 points in seven games. He did not, however, compete in the final against the United States due to a back injury. Canada nevertheless won in two games by scores of 4–1 and 4–2. Five years later, the tournament was revived and renamed the World Cup in 1996. It marked the first time Gretzky did not finish as the tournament’s leading scorer with seven points in eight games for fourth overall. The 1996 World Cup also ended Canada’s winning streak at the tournament (including the Canada Cups), losing in three games of a best-of-three final.

Leading up to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, it was announced that NHL players would be eligible to play for the first time. Gretzky was named to the club on November 29, 1997. However, Gretzky, was passed over for the captaincy, along with several other Canadian veterans including Steve Yzerman and Ray Bourque in favour of the younger Eric Lindros. Expectations were high for the Canadian team, but the team lost to the Czech Republic in the semi-finals. The game went to a shootout with a 1–1 tie after overtime, but Gretzky was controversially not selected by coach Marc Crawford as one of the five shooters. Team Canada then lost the bronze medal game 3–2 to Finland to finish without a medal. The Olympics marked Gretzky’s eighth and final international appearance, finishing with four assists in six games. He retired from international play holding the records for most goals (20), most assists (28), and most overall points (48) in best-on-best hockey.

Personal life

Gretzky has made several TV appearances, including a Dance Fever celebrity judge, and an ‘unforgettable appearance’, acting in a dramatic role alongside Victor Newman in The Young and The Restless in 1981. In 1984, he travelled to the Soviet Union to film a television program on Russian goaltender Vladislav Tretiak. Gretzky hosted the Saturday Night Live comedy program in 1989. A fictional crime-fighting version of him served as one of the main characters in the cartoon ProStars in 1991. Gretzky has made over 60 movies, network television and video appearances as himself, according to IMDB, as of February 2012.

Family

While serving as a celebrity judge on Dance Fever, Gretzky met his future wife, American actress Janet Jones. According to Wayne, Janet does not recall him 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 Wayne and Alan Thicke were attending. Wayne proposed in January 1988, and they were married on July 17, 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 guards at the church steps. The event reportedly cost Gretzky over US$1 million.