Hockey World Blog

NHL Legends: Wayne Gretzky

Few NHL players get to play their whole career for one team. Even the greatest player of all time, Wayne Gretzky, aptly nicknamed the “Great One,” played for multiple teams during his career.

From 1979 to 1999, he’d played across 20 NHL seasons for four different teams – all with one thing in common: his incredible record-breaking statistics.

As a result, Gretzky’s name remains synonymous with greatness and talent. But there is far more to this player than you may know.

Player Strengths

Wayne Gretzky was born on January 26, 1961, in Bradford, Ontario.

Despite having unimpressive strength and size, his stamina, intelligence, and ability to read a game of hockey remain completely unrivaled. This came as a result of endless study and practice of the game as he grew up, interweaving it with his education.

He was renowned for having brilliant observational skills that allowed him to anticipate where the puck was going to be and had the uncanny ability to execute the right move at the perfect time.

To check player progress or team stats today, check out up-to-date NHL odds.

WHA: Indianapolis Racers (1978)

Gretzky was at the top of the leaderboard in the 1978 World Junior Championships and would go on to sign a contract with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association (WHA) at just 17 years old.

The star player would go on to play only eight games for the Racers, scoring his first professional goal against Edmonton Oilers’ Dave Dryden in his fifth game, with his second goal following seconds later.

When the WHA folded, Gretzky was quickly traded to the Edmonton Oilers of the NHL.

NHL Career

Edmonton Oilers (1979 to 1988)

Gretzky was not drafted by the Oilers and was instead traded after the collapse of the WHA in 1978. Despite this, the Oilers would be where he found his greatest successes as an NHL player.

Not only did Gretzky earn all sorts of personal accolades, but he would also define a new brand of offensive play in the NHL.

To put it simply, Gretzky dominated the NHL with the Oilers during the 1980s, especially in their rivalry with the Calgary Flames. Gretzky took the league to a new level of offensive prowess and skill while shattering previous NHL records.

As team captain and center, he’d lead the team to four Stanley Cup victories throughout the 1980s.

In both regular season and post-season play, he set numerous records. This included the records for the most regular season assists (1,963), goals (894), and points (2,857).

Los Angeles Kings (1988 to 1996)

In August 1988 the unthinkable happened: Wayne Gretzky was traded from the Oilers. He was traded to the Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, and 1st round draft picks 1989, 1991, 1993, and $15 million.

He would go on to lead the Kings to their first-ever appearance in the Stanley Cup finals in 1993 where they would end up losing to the Montreal Canadiens.

It must be noted that Gretzky was an elite hockey ambassador both on and off the ice, especially after being traded to LA, and is credited with being the catalyst for NHL expansion in the south. As a result, the impact of Gretzky’s time in LA cannot be underestimated.

St. Louis Blues (1996)

The Kings were not going to make the playoffs and were looking to rebuild the team, something Gretzky was not interested in being part of at that point of his career. This is when the Blues snapped him up as part of their push to the playoffs.

He’d play only 18 regular season games and 13 playoff games with the Blues before losing to the Detroit Red Wings. He tallied 21 points from 13 assists and 8 goals during 18 regular season games, and then followed that up by leading the team in terms of playoff scoring.

He rejected a $15 million, 3-year contract with the team and decided to look elsewhere.

New York Rangers (1996 to 1999)

His final career change would see him head to the New York Rangers in Manhattan. The allure of the team saw him signed to a 2-year, $10 million contract at age 35.

The first season went well as the Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals before suffering defeat at the hands of Philadelphia. This would be Gretzky’s final playoff appearance.

The next two years saw the team plateau, yet Gretzky’s stats remained top-of-the-range. This continued until his retirement in 1999.

Coaching Career

Like a few former pro players, Gretzky also embarked on a coaching career a few years after retiring. He first became part-owner of the then-failing Phoenix Coyotes in 2000. Then, following on from the 2004–05 lock-out, he went on to become the team’s head coach.

There’s a lot to be said about Gretzky for his impeccable on-ice abilities, but he played an entirely different game as head coach.

Throughout the four seasons he coached the Coyotes, they never once reached the playoffs, averaging a win/loss record of 143-161-24 throughout his tenure. However, his record averaged just under .500 which is not a terrible figure.

Unfortunately, the “Great One” could not save the struggling franchise. He resigned as head coach after the Coyotes’ bankruptcy in 2009.

Awards and Recognitions

Wayne Gretzky’s stats speak for themselves. After playing 1,487 NHL games, he holds the NHL record for a total of 2,857 career points.

He won nine Hart Trophies as the most valuable player in the NHL, was a four-time winner of the Stanley Cup, and was also a five-time winner of the Lester B. Pearson Award.

After his 1999 retirement, Gretzky was immediately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. These are the highest and most prolific ways of recognizing his impeccable ice hockey talent.

Summary

Even now, over two decades since he retired, Wayne Gretzky’s legacy remains firmly imprinted on the NHL, with no signs of disappearing anytime soon. He has well and truly left his mark on the sport of hockey, and has also played a huge role in shaping it into the league we know and love today.

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