|Born|| January 26, 1961 |
Brantford, Ontario, Canada
|Height||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)|
|Weight||185 lb (84 kg; 13 st 3 lb)|
|Played for|| WHA|
Los Angeles Kings
St. Louis Blues
New York Rangers
|Hall of Fame, 1999|
Wayne Gretzky (born Wayne Douglas Gretzky on 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" Wayne has been called "the greatest hockey player ever" by many sportswriters, players and the NHL itself.
Wayne is the leading scorer in NHL history with more goals and more assists than any other player.
He scored more assists than any other player scored total 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, Wayne held 61 NHL records: 40 regular-season records, 15 playoff records and six All-Star records. As of 2014, he still holds 60 NHL records.
Wayne was born in Brantford, the son of Phyllis Leone (Hockin) and Walter Gretzky. The couple had married in 1960 and lived in an apartment in Brantford, Ontario where Walter worked for Bell Telephone Canada.
The family moved into a house on Varadi Avenue in Brantford seven months after Wayne was born, chosen partly because its yard was flat enough to make an ice rink on every winter He was joined by a sister, Kim (b. 1963), and brothers Keith, Glen & Brent.
The family would regularly visit Tony and Mary's farm (Wayne's grandparents) and watch Hockey Night in Canada together.
By the age of two, Wayne was trying to score goals against Mary using a souvenir stick. The farm was where Wayne skated on ice for the first time (at the age of two years, 10 months)
A small pair of ice skates, meant for a small child. The boot is leather and is missing its laces, while the blade is deteriorating and showing significant wear due to age. Gretzky's first pair of skates, worn when he was three years old.
Walter taught his sons and their friends hockey on a rink he made in the back yard of the family home, nicknamed the "Wally Coliseum". Drills included skating around Javex bleach bottles and tin cans, and flipping pucks over scattered hockey sticks to be able to pick up the puck again in full flight.
Additionally, Walter gave the advice to "skate where the puck's going, not where it's been".
Wayne was a classic prodigy whose extraordinary skills made him the target of jealous parents.
The team that Wayne played on at age six was otherwise composed of ten-year-olds. His first coach, Dick Martin, remarked that he handled the puck better than the ten-year-olds.
According to Martin, "Wayne was so good that you could have a boy of your own who was a tremendous hockey player, and he'd get overlooked because of what the Gretzky kid was doing."
The sweaters for ten-year-olds were far too large for Wayne, who coped by tucking the sweater into his pants on the right side. He continued doing this throughout his NHL career.
By the age of ten, Wayne had scored an astonishing 378 goals and 139 assists in just one season with the Brantford Nadrofsky Steelers. His play now attracted media attention beyond his hometown of Brantford, including a profile by John Iaboni in the Toronto Telegram in October 1971.
By the age of 13, Wayne had scored over 1,000 goals His play attracted considerable negative attention from other players' parents, including those of his teammates, and he was often booed. According to Walter, the "capper" was being booed on "Brantford Day" at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens in February of 1975.
When Wayne was 14 years old, his family arranged for him to move to and play hockey in Toronto, partly to further his career, and partly to remove him from the uncomfortable pressure he faced in his hometown.
The Gretzkys had to legally challenge the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association to win Wayne the right to play elsewhere, which was disallowed at the time. The Gretzkys won and Wayne played Junior B hockey with the Toronto Nationals. He earned Rookie of the Year honours in the Metro Junior B Hockey League in 1975–76, with 60 points in 28 games.
The following year, as a 15-year-old, Wayne had 72 points in 32 games with the same team, then known as the Seneca Nationals.
Despite his offensive statistics, two teams bypassed Wayne in the 1977 OMJHL Midget Draft of 16-year-olds. The Oshawa Generals picked Tom McCarthy, and the Niagara Falls Flyers picked Steve Peters second overall.
With the third pick, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds selected Wayne even though Walter Gretzky had told the team that he would not move to Sault Ste. Marie, a northern Ontario city that inflicts a heavy traveling schedule on its junior team.
The Gretzkys made an arrangement with a local family they knew and Wayne played a season in the Ontario Hockey League at the age of 16 with the Greyhounds. It was with the Greyhounds that Wayne first wore the number 99 on his jersey.
Wayne originally wanted to wear number 9—for his hockey hero Gordie Howe—but it was already being worn by teammate Brian Gualazzi. At coach Muzz MacPherson's suggestion, he settled on #99.
World Hockey Association (WHA)Edit
In 1978, the World Hockey Association (WHA) league was in competition with the established NHL.
The NHL did not allow the signing of players under the age of 20, but the WHA had no rules regarding such signings.
Several WHA teams courted Wayne, notably the Indianapolis Racers and the Birmingham Bulls.
Birmingham Bulls owner John F. Bassett wanted to confront the NHL by signing as many young and promising superstars as possible and saw Gretzky as the most promising young prospect, but it was Racers owner Nelson Skalbania who, on June 12, 1978, signed then 17-year-old Wayne to a seven-year personal services contract worth $1.75 million US.
He scored his first professional goal against Dave Dryden of the Edmonton Oilers in his fifth game, and his second goal four seconds later.
Skalbania opted to have Wayne sign a personal-services contract rather than a standard player contract in part because he knew a deal to take some WHA teams into the NHL was in the works.
He also knew that the Racers could not hope to be included among those teams and hoped to keep the Racers alive long enough to collect compensation from the surviving teams when the WHA dissolved, as well as any funds earned from selling the young star.
Wayne only played eight games for Indianapolis. The Racers were losing $40,000 per game. Skalbania told him he would be moved, offering him a choice between the Edmonton Oilers and the Winnipeg Jets. On the advice of his agent, he picked the Oilers, but the move was not that simple.
On November 2nd, Wayne, goaltender Eddie Mio and forward Peter Driscoll were put on a private plane, not knowing where they would land and what team they would be joining.
While in the air, Skalbania worked on the deal. Skalbania offered to play a game of backgammon with Winnipeg owner Michael Gobuty, the stakes being if Gobuty won, he would get Gretzky and if he lost, he had to give Skalbania a share of the Jets.
Gobuty turned down the proposal and the players landed in Edmonton. Mio paid the $4,000 bill for the flight with his credit card. Skalbania sold Gretzky, Mio and Driscoll to his former partner, and then-owner of the Edmonton Oilers, Peter Pocklington.
Although the announced price was $850,000, Pocklington actually paid $700,000. The money was not enough to keep the Racers alive; they folded that December
One of the highlights of Wayne's season was his appearance in the 1979 WHA All-Star Game. The format was a three-game series between the WHA All-Stars and Dynamo Moscow played at Edmonton's Northlands Coliseum.
The WHA All-Stars were coached by Jacques Demers, who put Wayne on a line with his boyhood idol Gordie Howe and Howe's son, Mark. In game one, the line scored seven points, and the WHA All-Stars won by a score of 4–2.
In game two, Wayne and Mark Howe each scored a goal and Gordie Howe picked up an assist as the WHA won 4–2. The line did not score in the final game, but the WHA won by a score of 4–3.
On Gretzky's 18th birthday (on January 26, 1979), Pocklington signed him to a 10-year personal services contract (the longest in hockey history at the time) worth C$3 million, with options for 10 more years.
Wayne finished third in the league in scoring at 110 points, behind Robbie Ftorek and Réal Cloutier. He captured the Lou Kaplan Trophy as rookie of the year and helped the Oilers to first overall in the league.
The Oilers reached the Avco World Trophy finals, where they lost to the Winnipeg Jets in six games.
It was Wayne's only year in the WHA, as the league folded following the season.
After the World Hockey Association folded in 1979, the Edmonton Oilers and three other teams joined the NHL.
Under the merger agreement the Oilers, like the other surviving WHA teams, were to be allowed to protect two goaltenders and two skaters from being reclaimed by the established NHL teams.
Wayne's success in the WHA carried over into the NHL, despite some critics suggesting he would struggle in what was considered the bigger, tougher, and more talented league.
In his first NHL season, 1979–80, he was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy as the League's Most Valuable Player (the first of eight in a row) and tied for the scoring lead with Marcel Dionne with 137 points.
Although he played 79 games to Dionne's 80, Dionne was awarded the Art Ross Trophy since he scored more goals (53 vs. 51). The season still stands as the highest point total by a first year player in NHL history.
Wayne became the youngest player to score 50 goals but was not eligible for the Calder Memorial Trophy, given to the top NHL rookie, because of his previous year of WHA experience. The Calder was awarded to Boston Bruins defenceman Ray Bourque.
In his second season, Wayne won the Art Ross (the first of seven consecutive) with a then-record 164 points, breaking both Bobby Orr's record for assists in a season (102) and Phil Esposito's record for points in a season (152). He won his second straight Hart Trophy.
In the first game of the 1981 playoffs versus the Montreal Canadiens, he had five assists. This was a single game playoff record.
During the 1981-82 NHL season, Wayne surpassed a record that had stood for 35 years: 50 goals in 50 games.
Set by Maurice "Rocket" Richard during the 1944–45 NHL season and tied by Mike Bossy during the 1980–81 NHL season, he accomplished the feat in only 39 games. His 50th goal of the season came on December 30, 1981 in the final seconds of a 7–5 win against the Philadelphia Flyers and was his fifth of the game.
Later that season, Wayne broke Esposito's record for most goals in a season (76) on February 24, 1982, scoring three goals to help beat the Buffalo Sabres 6–3. He ended the 1981–82 season with records of 92 goals, 120 assists and 212 points in 80 games, becoming the only player in NHL history to break the two hundred-point mark.
That year, Wayne became the first hockey player and first Canadian to be named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. He was also named 1982 "Sportsman of the Year" by Sports Illustrated. The Canadian Press also named him "Newsmaker of the Year" in 1982.
The following seasons saw Wayne break his own assists record three more times (125 in 1982–83, 135 in 1984–85, and 163 in 1985–86); he also bettered that mark (120 assists) in 1986–87 with 121 and 1990–91 with 122, and his point record one more time (215, in 1985–86).
By the time he finished playing in Edmonton, he held or shared 49 NHL records, which in itself was a record.
The Edmonton Oilers finished first overall in their last WHA regular season.
The same success was not immediate when they joined the NHL, but within four seasons, the Oilers were competing for the Stanley Cup.
The Oilers were a young, strong team featuring, in addition to Wayne, future Hall of Famers including forwards Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson & Jari Kurri, defenceman Paul Coffey and goaltender Grant Fuhr. He was the team captain from 1983–88.
In 1983, they made it to the Stanley Cup Final, only to be swept by the three-time defending champion New York Islanders. The following season, the Oilers met the Islanders in the Final again, this time winning the Stanley Cup, their first of five in seven years.
On June 25, 1984, Wayne was named an officer of the Order of Canada on June 25, 1984, for outstanding contribution to the sport of hockey. Since the Order ceremonies are always held during the hockey season, it took 13 years and 7 months—and two Governors General—before he could accept the honour.
He was promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2009 "for his continued contributions to the world of hockey, notably as one of the best players of all time, as well as for his social engagement as a philanthropist, volunteer and role model for countless young people".
The Oilers also won the Cup with Wayne in 1985, 1987 and 1988.
When the Oilers joined the NHL, Wayne continued to play under his personal services contract with Oilers owner Peter Pocklington.
This arrangement came under increased scrutiny by the mid-1980s, especially following reports that Pocklington had used the contract as collateral to help secure a $31 million loan with the Alberta government-owned Alberta Treasury Branches.
Amid growing concern around the league that a financial institution might be able to lay claim to Wayne's rights in the event the heavily leveraged Pocklington were to declare bankruptcy (as well as growing dissatisfaction on the part of Wayne and his advisers) in 1987, Wayne and Pocklington agreed to replace the personal services contract with a standard NHL contract.
The Gretzky RuleEdit
In June of 1985 (as part of a package of five rule changes to be implemented for the 1985–86 season), the NHL Board of Governors made a decision to introduce offsetting penalties, where neither team lost a man when coincidental penalties were called.
The effect of calling offsetting penalties was felt immediately in the NHL because during the early 1980s when the Gretzky-era Oilers entered a four-on-four or three-on-three situation with an opponent, they frequently used the space on the ice to score one or more goals.
Wayne held a press conference one day after being awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy, criticizing the NHL for punishing teams and players who previously benefited.
The rule change became known as the Gretzky rule. The rule was changed back for the 1992–93 season.
Strategy & effect on NHL PlayEdit
Wayne had a major influence on the style of play of the Edmonton Oilers and in the NHL as a whole, helping to inspire a more team-based strategy.
Using this approach, the Oilers (led by Wayne) became the highest scoring team in league history.
According to hockey writer\former NHL goaltender Ken Dryden, "He was, I think, the first Canadian forward to play a true team game."
The focus of the game prior to Wayne's arrival, he said, especially among the Canadian teams, was on the player with the puck—in getting the puck to a star player who would make the big play.
"Gretzky reversed that. He knew he wasn't big enough, strong enough, or even fast enough to do what he wanted to do if others focused on him. Like a magician, he had to direct attention elsewhere, to his four teammates on the ice with him, to create the momentary distraction in order to move unnoticed into the open ice where size and strength didn't matter. . . . Gretzky made his opponents compete with five players, not one, and he made his teammates full partners to the game. He made them skate to his level and pass and finish up to his level or they would be embarrassed."
Between 1982 and 1985, the Edmonton Oilers averaged 423 goals a season, when no previous team had scored 400 and Wayne on his own had averaged 207 points, when no player before had scored more than 152 in one year.
"In the past, defenders and teams had learned to devise strategies to stop opponents with the puck. Without the puck, that was interference. But now, if players without the puck skated just as hard, but faster, dodged and darted to open ice just as determinedly, but more effectively, as those with the puck, how do you shut them down?"
In this, Wayne added his considerable influence as the preeminent NHL star of his day to that of the Soviets, who had also developed a more team-style of play and had successfully used it against the best NHL teams, beginning in the 1972 Summit Series.
"The Soviets and Gretzky changed the NHL game," says Dryden. "Gretzky, the kid from Brantford with the Belarusian name, was the acceptable face of Soviet hockey. No Canadian kid wanted to play like Makarov or Larionov. They all wanted to play like Gretzky."
At the same time, Wayne recognizes the contributions of their coach in the success of the Oilers: "Under the guidance of Glen Sather, our Oiler teams became adept at generating speed, developing finesse, and learning a transition game with strong European influences."
Wayne explains his style of play further, saying:
"People think that to be a good player you have to pick the puck up, deke around ninety-three guys and take this ungodly slap shot. No. Let the puck do all the moving and you get yourself in the right place. I don't care if you're Carl Lewis, you can't outskate that little black thing. Just move the puck: give it up, get it back, give it up. It's like Larry Bird. The hardest work he does is getting open. The jumpshot is cake.
That's all hockey is: open ice. That's my whole strategy: Find Open Ice. Chicago coach Mike Keenan said it best: "There's a spot on the ice that's no-man's land, and all the good goal scorers find it." It's a piece of frozen real estate that's just in between the defense and the forward."
Two hours after the Oilers won the Stanley Cup in 1988, Wayne learned from his father that the Oilers were planning to deal him to another team.
Walter Gretzky had known for months after having been tipped off by Skalbania, but kept the news from Wayne so as not to upset him.
According to Walter, Wayne was being "shopped" to Los Angeles, Detroit, and Vancouver, and Pocklington needed money as his other business ventures were not doing well.
At first, Wayne did not want to leave Edmonton, but he later received a call while on his honeymoon from Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall asking permission to meet and discuss the deal.
After the details of the trade were finalized by the two owners, one final condition had to be met: Wayne had to call Pocklington and request a trade.
When Pocklington told Oilers general manager and head coach Glen Sather about his plans to trade Wayne to L.A., Sather tried to stop the deal, but when he found out that Gretzky had been involved in the negotiations, he changed his attitude and requested Luc Robitaille in exchange. The Kings refused and offered Jimmy Carson instead.
On August 9, 1988, in a move that heralded significant change in the NHL, the Oilers traded Gretzky, along with McSorley and Krushelnysk to the Kings for Carson, Martin Gelinas, $15 million in cash and the Kings' first-round draft picks in 1989 (later traded to the New Jersey Devils; New Jersey selected Jason Miller), 1991 (Martin Rucinsky) and 1993 (Nick Stajduhar).
"The Trade" (as it came to be known) upset Canadians to the extent that New Democratic Party House Leader Nelson Riis demanded that the government block it and Pocklington was burned in effigy outside the Northlands Coliseum.
Wayne himself was considered a "traitor" by some Canadians for turning his back on his adopted hometown, and his home country; his motivation was widely rumoured to be the furtherance of his wife's acting career.
In Wayne's first appearance in Edmonton after the trade (a game that was nationally televised in Canada), he received a four-minute standing ovation. The arena was sold out and the attendance of 17,503 was the Oilers' biggest crowd ever to that date.
Large cheers erupted for his first shift, his first touch of the puck, his two assists, and for Mark Messier's body check of Wayne into the boards.
After the game, Wayne took the opportunity to confirm his patriotism: "I'm still proud to be a Canadian. I didn't desert my country. I moved because I was traded and that's where my job is. But I'm Canadian to the core. I hope Canadians understand that."
After the 1988–89 season, a life-sized bronze statue of Wayne was erected outside the Northlands Coliseum, holding the Stanley Cup over his head.
Los Angeles KingsEdit
The Kings named Wayne their alternate captain. He made an immediate impact on the ice, scoring on his first shot on goal in the first regular-season game.
The Kings got off to their best start ever, winning four straight on their way to qualifying for the playoffs.
Despite being underdogs against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Edmonton Oilers in the Smythe Division semifinals, he led the Kings to a shocking upset of his old squad, spearheading the Kings' return from a 3–1 series deficit to win the series 4–3. He was nervous that Edmonton would greet him with boos, but they were eagerly waiting for him.
For only the second time in his NHL career, Wayne finished second in scoring, but narrowly beat out Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux (who scored 199 points) for the Hart Trophy as MVP. In 1990, the Associated Press named him Male Athlete of the Decade.
Gretzky's first season in Los Angeles saw a marked increase in attendance and fan interest in a city not previously known for following hockey. The Kings now boasted of numerous sellouts.
Many credit Wayne's arrival with putting non-traditional U.S. hockey markets on "the NHL map"; not only did California receive two more NHL franchises (the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and the San Jose Sharks) during his tenure in L.A., but his popularity in Southern California proved to be an impetus in the league establishing teams in other parts of the U.S. Sun Belt.
Wayne was sidelined for much of the 1992–93 regular season with a back injury, and his 65-point output ended a record 13-year streak in which he recorded at least 100 points each season. However, he performed very well in the playoffs, notably when he scored a hat trick in game seven of the Campbell Conference Finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
This victory propelled the Kings into the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history, where they faced the Montreal Canadiens.
After winning the first game of the series by a score of 4–1, the team lost the next three games in overtime, and then fell 4–1 in the deciding fifth game where Gretzky failed to get a shot on net.
The next season, Wayne broke Gordie Howe's career goal-scoring record and won the scoring title, but the team began a long slide, and despite numerous player and coaching moves, they failed to qualify for the playoffs again until 1998.
After the financially troubled McNall was forced to sell the Kings in 1994, Wayne's relationship with the Kings' new owners grew strained. Finally, in early 1996, he requested a trade.
During the 1994-95 NHL lockout, Wayne and some friends (including Mark Messier, Marty McSorley, Brett Hull and Steve Yzerman) formed the Ninety Nine All Stars Tour and played eight exhibition games in various countries.
St. Louis BluesEdit
On February 27, 1996, Wayne joined the St. Louis Blues in a trade for Patrice Tardif, Roman Vopat, Craig Johnson and two draft picks (Peter Hogan and Matt Zultek). He partially orchestrated the trade after reports surfaced that he was unhappy in Los Angeles.
At the time of the trade, the Blues and New York Rangers emerged as front-runners, but the Blues met his salary demands.
Wayne was immediately named the team's captain. He scored 37 points in 31 games for the team in the regular season and the playoffs and the Blues came within one game of the Conference Finals.
However, the chemistry that everyone expected with winger Brett Hull never developed and coach Mike Keenan publicly criticized him.
Wayne rejected a three-year deal worth $15 million with the Blues, and on July 21, he signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent, rejoining longtime Oilers teammate Mark Messier for a two-year $8 million (plus incentives) contract.
New York RangersEdit
Wayne ended his professional playing career with the New York Rangers where he played his final three seasons and helped the team reach the Eastern Conference Finals in 1997.
The Rangers were defeated in the Conference Finals in five games by the Philadelphia Flyers, despite Wayne leading the Rangers in the playoffs with 10 goals and 10 assists.
For the first time in his NHL career, he was not named captain, although he briefly wore the captain's 'C' in 1998 when captain Brian Leetch was injured and out of the lineup.
After the 1996–97 season, Mark Messier signed a free agent contract with the Vancouver Canucks, ending the brief reunion of Messier and Gretzky after just one season. The Rangers did not return to the playoffs until 2006, well after Wayne retired.
In 1997, prior to his retirement, The Hockey News named a committee of 50 hockey experts (former NHL players, past and present writers, broadcasters, coaches and hockey executives) to select and rank the 50 greatest players in NHL history.
The experts voted Wayne number one. Wayne said that he would have voted Bobby Orr or Gordie Howe as the best of all time.
The 1998–99 season was his last as a professional player.
He reached one milestone in this last season, breaking the professional total (regular season and playoffs) goal-scoring record of 1,071, which had been held by Gordie Howe.
Wayne was having difficulty scoring this season and finished with only nine goals, contributing to this being the only season in which he failed to average at least a point per game, but his last goal brought his scoring total for his combined NHL/WHA career to 1,072, one more than Howe.
As the season wound down, there was media speculation that Wayne would retire, but he refused to announce his retirement.
Wayne's last NHL game in Canada was on April 15, 1999, a 2–2 tie with the Ottawa Senators and the Rangers' second-to-last game of the season.
Following the contest, in a departure from the usual three stars announcement, he was awarded all three stars. Upon returning to New York, he announced he would retire after the Rangers' last game of the season.
The final game of Wayne's career was a 2–1 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 18, 1999, in Madison Square Garden.
Although the game involved two American teams, both national anthems were played with the lyrics slightly adjusted to accommodate Wayne's departure.
In place of the lyrics "O Canada, we stand on guard for thee", Bryan Adams ad-libbed, "We're going to miss you, Wayne Gretzky."
"The Star-Spangled Banner" (as sung by John Amirante) was altered to include the words "in the land of Wayne Gretzky".
Wayne ended his career with a final point, assisting on the lone New York goal scored by Brian Leetch.
At the time of his retirement, he was the second-to-last WHA player still active in professional hockey. Mark Messier, who attended the game along with other representatives of the Edmonton dynasty, was the last.
Wayne told journalist Scott Morrison that the final game of his career was his greatest day. He recounted:
"My last game in New York was my greatest day in hockey...Everything you enjoy about the sport of hockey as a kid, driving to practice with mom [Phyllis] and dad [Walter], driving to the game with mom and dad, looking in the stands and seeing your mom and dad and your friends, that all came together in that last game in New York."
Wayne was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 22, 1999, becoming the tenth player to bypass the three-year waiting period.
The Hall of Fame then announced that he would be the last player to do so. He was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2000.
In addition, Wayne's jersey number 99 was retired league-wide at the 2000 NHL All-Star Game. The jersey retirement was similar to Major League Baseball's retirement of the number 42 worn by Jackie Robinson.
In October of 1999, Edmonton honoured Wayne by renaming one of Edmonton's busiest freeways, Capilano Drive (which passes by Rexall Place) to "Wayne Gretzky Drive".
Also in Edmonton, the local transit authority assigned a rush-hour bus route numbered No. 99 which also runs on Wayne Gretzky Drive for its commute.
In 2002, the Kings held a jersey retirement ceremony and erected a life-sized statue of Wayne outside the Staples Center; the ceremony was delayed until then so that Bruce McNall, who had recently finished a prison sentence, could attend.
Wayne's hometown of Brantford, Ontario, renamed Park Road North to "Wayne Gretzky Parkway" as well as renaming the North Park Recreation Centre to The Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre. Brantford further inducted him into its "Walk of Fame" in 2004.
On May 10, 2010, he was awarded The Ambassador Award of Excellence by the LA Sports & Entertainment Commission.
Almost immediately after retirement, several NHL teams approached Wayne about an ownership role.
In May of 2000, he agreed to buy a 10% stake in the Phoenix Coyotes in a partnership with majority owner Steve Ellman, taking on the roles of alternate governor, managing partner and head of hockey operations.
The Coyotes were in the process of being sold and Ellman convinced Wayne to come on board, averting a potential move to Portland, Oregon.
The sale was not completed until the following year, on February 15, 2001 after two missed deadlines while securing financing and partners before Ellman and Wayne could take over.The sale completed with the addition to the partnership of Jerry Moyes.
Wayne convinced his long-time agent Michael Barnett to join the team as its General Manager.
In 2005, rumors began regarding wayne becoming the head coach of the team, but were denied by Wayne and the Coyotes. He agreed to become head coach on August 8, 2005.
Wayne made his coaching debut on October 5th and won his first game on October 8 against the Minnesota Wild.
Wayne took an indefinite leave of absence on December 17th to be with his ill mother. Phyllis Gretzky died of lung cancer on December 19th. He resumed his head-coaching duties on December 28th.
The Coyotes' record at the end of the 2005–06 season was 38–39–5, a 16-win improvement over 2004–05; they were 36–36–5 in the games he coached.
In 2006, Moyes became majority owner of the team. There was uncertainty about Wayne's role until it was announced on May 31, 2006 that he had agreed to a five-year contract to remain head coach.
The Coyotes' performance declined in 2006–07, as the team ended the season 15th in their conference.
During Wayne's coaching tenure, the Coyotes did not reach the postseason, and their best finish in the Western Conference standings was 12th.
On May 5, 2009, the Coyotes' holding company, Dewey Ranch Hockey LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
An ownership dispute involving Research in Motion's Jim Balsillie (with the intention of relocating the team) and the NHL itself arose, which eventually ended up in Court.
Wayne did not attend the Coyotes' training camp, leaving associate head coach Ulf Samuelsson in charge, due to an uncertain contractual status with the club, whose bankruptcy hearings were continuing.
Bidders for the club had indicated that Wayne would no longer be associated with the team after it emerged from bankruptcy, and on September 24, 2009, he stepped down as head coach and head of hockey operations of the Coyotes.
Wayne's final head coaching record was 143–161–24.
Wayne was Executive Director of the Canadian men's hockey team at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
On February 18, 2002, he lashed out at the media at a press conference, frustrated with media and fan comments regarding his team's uninspiring 1–1–1 start.
Wayne's temper boiled over after Canada's 3–3 draw versus the Czech Republic as he launched a tirade against the perceived negative reputation of Team Canada amongst other national squads and called rumours of dissent in the dressing room the result of "American propaganda".
He said, "They're loving us not doing well", referring to American hockey fans.
American fans online began calling Wayne a "crybaby" while defenders said he was merely borrowing a page from former coach Glen Sather to take the pressure off his players.
Wayne addressed those comments by saying he spoke out to protect the Canadian players and the tirade was not "staged". The Canadian team won the gold medal, its first in 50 years.
Again, Wayne acted as Executive Director of Canada's men's hockey team at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, though not with the success of 2002; the team was eliminated in the quarterfinals and failed to win a medal.
He was asked to manage Canada's team at the 2005 Ice Hockey World Championships, but declined due to his mother's poor health.
He also served as an ambassador and contributor in Vancouver winning the bidding process to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. He went to Prague, Czech Republic and was part of the presentation team.
Wayne was the final Olympic torchbearer at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
He was one of four who lit the cauldron at BC Place Stadium during the opening ceremony (although one was unable to due to technical difficulties with one of the cauldron's "arms" which failed to raise) and then jogged out of the stadium where he was then driven by police escorts through the streets of downtown Vancouver to light a second, outdoor cauldron near the Vancouver Convention Centre located in the city's downtown waterfront district.
Under IOC rules, the lighting of the Olympic cauldron must be witnessed by those attending the opening ceremony, implying that it must be lit at the location where the ceremony is taking place.
Although another IOC rule states that the cauldron should be witnessed outside by the entire residents of the entire host city, this was not possible since the ceremony took place indoors.
However, VANOC secretly built a second outdoor cauldron next to the West Building of the Vancouver Convention Centre and Wayne was secretly chosen to light this permanent cauldron.
Quickly word spread through the downtown Vancouver area that Wayne was indeed the final torchbearer and very soon, a bunch of people came running after the police escort to cheer him on and hopefully catch a glimpse of him carrying the torch to the outdoor cauldron.
For the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, he was named Special Advisor to the Canada men's national ice hockey team.
Although Wayne had previously stated he would not participate in any "old-timers exhibition games," on November 22, 2003, he took to the ice one last time to help celebrate the Edmonton Oilers' 25th anniversary as an NHL team.
The Heritage Classic (held at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton) was the first regular season NHL game to be played outdoors.
It was preceded by the Mega Stars game, which featured Gretzky and many of his Oiler Dynasty teammates against a group of retired Montreal Canadiens players (whose likes included Claude Lemieux, Guy Lafleur and others).
Despite frigid temperatures, the crowd numbered 57,167 with an additional several million watching the game on television.
The Edmonton alumni won the Megastars game 2–0 while Montreal went on to win the regular season game held later that day, 4–3.
|1977–78||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||OMJHL||64||70||112||182||14||—||—||—||—||13||6||20||26||0|
|1988–89||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||78||54||114||168||26||+15||11||5||5||11||5||17||22||0|
|1989–90||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||73||40||102||142||42||+8||10||4||4||7||3||7||10||0|
|1990–91||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||78||41||122||163||16||+30||8||0||5||12||4||11||15||2|
|1991–92||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||74||31||90||121||34||−12||12||2||2||6||2||5||7||2|
|1992–93||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||45||16||49||65||6||+6||0||2||1||24||15||25||40||4|
|1993–94||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||81||38||92||130||20||−25||14||4||0||—||—||—||—||—|
|1994–95||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||48||11||37||48||6||−20||3||0||1||—||—||—||—||—|
|1995–96||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||62||15||66||81||32||−7||5||0||2||—||—||—||—||—|
|1995–96||St. Louis Blues||NHL||18||8||13||21||2||−6||1||1||1||13||2||14||16||0|
|1996–97||New York Rangers||NHL||82||25||72||97||28||+12||6||0||2||15||10||10||20||2|
|1997–98||New York Rangers||NHL||82||23||67||90||28||−11||6||0||4||—||—||—||—||—|
|1998–99||New York Rangers||NHL||70||9||53||62||14||−23||3||0||3||—||—||—||—||—|
|WHA career totals (1 season)||80||46||64||110||19||+20||9||—||—||13||10||10||20||2|
|NHL career totals (20 seasons)||1,487||894||1,963||2,857||577||+518||204||73||91||208||122||260||382||66|
|1978||World Junior Championships||Canada||6||8||9||17||2||Bronze|
|1987||Rendez-vous '87||NHL All-Stars||2||0||4||4||0||N/A|
|Junior international totals||6||8||9||17||2||1|
|Senior international totals||57||26||60||86||12||6|
|Team||Year||Regular Season||Post Season|
|PHX||2005–06||82||38||39||5||81||5th in Pacific||Missed playoffs|
|PHX||2006–07||82||31||46||5||67||5th in Pacific||Missed playoffs|
|PHX||2007–08||82||38||37||7||83||4th in Pacific||Missed playoffs|
|PHX||2008–09||82||36||39||7||79||4th in Pacific||Missed playoffs|
|Total||328||143||161||24||Points %: .473|
Wayne made his first international appearance as a member of the Canadian national junior team at the 1978 World Junior Championships in Montreal, Quebec. He was the youngest player to compete in the tournament at the age of 16.
Wayne went on to lead the tournament in scoring with 17 points to earn All-Star Team and Best Forward honours. His 17 points remain the most scored by a 16-year-old in the World Junior Championships. Canada finished with the bronze medal.
He made his debut 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, Wayne 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.
He did not win his first international competition until the 1984 Canada Cup when Canada defeated Sweden in a best-of-three finals.
Wayne led the tournament in scoring for the second consecutive time and was named to the All-Star Team.
Wayne's international career highlight arguably came three years later at the 1987 Canada Cup. He 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, Wayne 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, Wayne 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.
Wayne led the tournament for the fourth and final time with 12 points in seven games. However, he didn't 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 Wayne did not finish as the tournament's leading scorer with seven points in eight games for fourth overall.
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.
Wayne was named to the club on November 29, 1997. However, he 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 Wayne was controversially not selected by coach Marc Crawford as one of the five shooters, all of whom failed to score.
Team Canada then lost the bronze medal game 3–2 to Finland to finish without a medal.
The Olympics marked Wayne'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.
Wayne's size and strength were unimpressive—in fact, far below average for the NHL, but he is widely considered the smartest player in the history of the game.
His reading of the game and his ability to improvise on the fly were unrivaled and he could consistently anticipate where the puck was going to be and execute the right move at the right time.
Wayne's coach at the Edmonton Oilers, Glen Sather, said, "He was so much more intelligent. While they were using all this energy trying to rattle his teeth, he was just skating away, circling, analyzing things."
Wayne was also considered one of the most creative players in hockey.
According to hockey Hall of Famer Igor Larionov:
"You never knew what he was going to do. He was improvising all the time. Every time he took the ice, there was some spontaneous decision he would make. That's what made him such a phenomenal player."
Wayne's ability to improvise came into the spotlight at the 1998 Olympics in Japan. Then an older player in the sunset of his career, he had been passed over for the captaincy of the team. But as the series continued, his unique skills made him a team leader.
Wayne passed and shot with prodigious skill.
Hall of Fame defenceman Bobby Orr said of him, "He passes better than anybody I've ever seen."
In his first two seasons in the NHL, Wayne's deft passing skills helped earn him a reputation as an ace playmake and so opposing defensemen focused their efforts on foiling his attempts to pass the puck to other scorers.
In response, he started shooting on goal himself—and with exceptional effectiveness. He had a fast and accurate shot.
Statistics support the contention. Whereas Phil Esposito (who had set the previous goal-scoring record) needed 550 shots to score 76 goals, Wayne netted his 76th after only 287 shots—about half as many. He scored his all-time record of 92 goals with just 369 shots.
Because he was so light compared to other players, goalies were often surprised by how hard Wayne's shot was. Goalies called his shots "sneaky fast." He also had a way of never hitting the puck with the same rhythm twice, making his shots harder to time and block.
Wayne won nine Hart Trophies, the NHL's most valuable player award and eight of these were awarded in consecutive years from 1980–87. He holds the record for most MVP awards of any player in North American professional sports.
- Lou Kaplan Trophy (WHA rookie of the year) — 1979
- Hart Memorial Trophy (most valuable player) — 1980–87, 1989
- Art Ross Trophy (scoring champion) — 1981–87, 1990, 1991, 1994
- Charlie Conacher Humanitarian Award — 1980
- Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff most valuable player) — 1985, 1988
- Lester B. Pearson Award (outstanding player, voted by the players) — 1982–85, 1987
- Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (sportsmanship) — 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
- Clarence S. Campbell Bowl (Western Conference Champions) — 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1993
- Presidents' Trophy (NHL Regular Season Champion) — 1986, 1987
- Chrysler-Dodge/NHL Performer of the Year — 1985–87
- Lester Patrick Trophy (outstanding service to hockey in the United States) — 1994
- Lou Marsh Trophy (Canadian athlete of the year) — 1982, 1983, 1985, 1989
- Lionel Conacher Award (Canadian male athlete of the year) — 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1989, 1999
- NHL All-Star Game MVP — 1983, 1989, 1999
- NHL MVP — Rendez-vous '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
While serving as a judge on Dance Fever, Wayne met 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 actor Alan Thicke were attending.
Wayne proposed in January of 1988 and they were married on July 16, 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 ceremonial guards. The event reportedly cost Wayne over US$1 million.
Wayne obtained US citizenship after he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, but he retains his Canadian citizenship.
He and Janet have five children: Paulina, Ty, Trevor, Tristan and Emma.
Wayne Gretzky's uncle, Al Gretzky, ran as a Conservative candidate in London West in the 2006 federal election and for the libertarian Freedom Party of Ontario in the 2013 provincial by-election for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. He was unsuccessful both times.
Wayne has owned or partnered in the ownership of two sports teams before becoming a partner in the Phoenix Coyotes.
In 1985, he bought the Hull Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for $175,000 CA. During his ownership, the team's colours were changed to silver and black, presaging the change in team jersey colours when he played for the Los Angeles Kings.
For the first season that Wayne played in Los Angeles, the Kings had their training camp at the Olympiques' arena. He eventually sold the team in 1992 for $550,000 CA.
In 1991, Wayne purchased the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League with Bruce McNall and John Candy.
The club won the Grey Cup championship in the first year of the partnership but struggled in the two following seasons, and the partnership sold the team before the 1994 season. Only McNall's name was engraved on the Grey Cup as team owner, but in November of 2007, the CFL corrected the oversight, adding Gretzky's and Candy's names.
In 1992, Wayne and McNall partnered in an investment to buy a rare Honus Wagner T206 cigarette card for $451,000 US, later selling the card. It most recently sold for $2.8 million US. He was a board member and executive officer of the Hespeler Hockey Company.
As of May 2008, Wayne's current business ventures include the "Wayne Gretzky's" restaurant in Toronto near the Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto, opened in partnership with Tom Bitove in 1993.
Wayne is also a partner in First Team Sports, a maker of sports equipment and Worldwide Roller Hockey, Inc., an operator of roller hockey rinks. His appeal as a product endorser far surpassed that of other hockey players of his era.
By 1995, he was among the five highest-paid athlete endorsers in North America, with deals from The Coca-Cola Company, Domino's Pizza, Sharp Corporation, and Upper Deck Company among others.
Wayne has endorsed and launched a wide variety of products from pillow cases to insurance.
The video game brand EA Sports included Wayne in its 2010 title "NHL Slapshot" and he had previously been an endorser for the 989 Sports games "Gretzky NHL 2005" and "Gretzky NHL 2006."
Wayne also made an appearance on the music video for Nickelback's "Rockstar."
Forbes estimates that he made US$93.8 million from 1990–98.
During the 2015 Canadian federal election campaign, Wayne endorsed the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and was featured at a campaign rally praising Harper by calling him "wonderful to the country." As a non-resident, he came under some criticism for this endorsement.
In 2014, Wayne praised Harper at a United for Ukraine Gala event in Toronto calling him "one of the greatest prime ministers ever". Earlier in 2015, he endorsed Patrick Brown during his successful campaign for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
While he is a dual Canadian-American citizen, Wayne is currently unable to vote in Canadian elections as he has not lived in the country since 1988.
In 2003, Wayne praised President of the United States George W. Bush and his 2003 invasion of Iraq saying: "The president of the United States is a great leader, I happen to think he's a wonderful man and if he believes what he's doing in Iraq is right, I back him 100 per cent."