Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Wayne Douglas Gretzky OC (born January 26, 1961) is a former professional ice hockey player. Born in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, he is known as "The Great One," and considered by many to be the best player of all time.
Taught by his father Walter, Gretzky was a classic prodigy. At 6, he was skating with 10 year-olds. At 10, he scored 378 goals in 85 games, and the first story on him was published in the Toronto Telegram (now the Toronto Sun). At 14, playing against 20 year-olds, he left Brantford to further his career. He also signed with his first agent.
He played one year in the Ontario Hockey League at the age of 16, with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. There he began wearing 99 on his jersey. He had wanted 9 — for his hero Gordie Howe — but it was already being worn by another teamate. At Coach Muzz MacPherson's suggestion, Gretzky tried and settled on 99. The next year, he signed with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association. Eight games into the season, his contract was bought by Peter Pocklington, owner of the Edmonton Oilers.
After the 1978-79 season, four WHA teams, including the Oilers, joined the National Hockey League. In his first NHL season, 1979-80, Gretzky 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 (Dionne was awarded the Art Ross Memorial Trophy as the league's leading scorer because he had scored more goals). Gretzky was not eligible for the Calder Memorial Trophy, given to the top NHL rookie, because of his previous year of professional experience.
In his second season, Gretzky won the Art Ross (the first of seven consecutive years) with a single-season record 164 points, and won his second straight Hart Trophy. The Oilers were a young, strong team featuring forwards Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and Jari Kurri, defenseman Paul Coffey, goalie Grant Fuhr, and Gretzky as its captain. In 1983, they made it to the Stanley Cup finals, only to be swept by the three-time defending champion New York Islanders. The following season, the Oilers met the Islanders in the Finals again, this time winning their first of four Stanley Cups over the next five years.
Breaking goal records
In 1981, Gretzky surpassed one of the game's most cherished records — 50 goals in 50 games — set by Maurice "Rocket" Richard during the 1944-45 season and tied by Mike Bossy during the 1980-81 season. On December 30, 1981, in Edmonton's 39th game, Gretzky scored his 50th goal of the season (and fifth of the game) into an empty net in the final seconds of a 7-5 win against Philadelphia.
On 24 February, 1982, Gretzky broke Phil Esposito's record for most goals in a season (76), when he scored four goals to help beat the Buffalo Sabres, 6-3. He ended the 1981-1982 season with 92 goals and a record 212 points in 80 games.
Gretzky broke the season points record again in 1985-86 with 215 points and also set a season record with 163 assists.
Male Athlete of the Decade
In 1982, Gretzky became the first hockey player and first Canadian to be named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. He was also named Sports Illustrated Magazine's 1982 "Sportsman of the Year." In 1990, the AP named him Male Athlete of the Decade.
On August 9, 1988, in a move that drastically changed the dynamics of the NHL, Gretzky was traded with Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski by the Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, $15 million cash and the Kings' first-round draft picks in 1989, 1991 and 1993. "The Trade," as it came to be known, so upset Canadians that one lawmaker demanded the government block it, and Pocklington was burned in effigy.
Gretzky's first season in Los Angeles saw a marked increase in attendance and fan interest in a city not previously known for following ice hockey. The Kings, who then played their home games at the Great Western Forum, boasted numerous sellouts on their way to reaching the 88-89 playoffs. Despite being heavy underdogs against his old squad, Gretzky led the new-look Kings on and off the ice to a shocking upset of the defending Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers. Many credit Gretzky's arrival with putting Southern California on "the NHL map"; now California is home to three NHL franchises.
Gretzky's time with the Kings reached its peak when he led the team to its first Cup finals in 1993. After winning the first game of the series, however, the team lost the next four in a row to the Montreal Canadiens. The team began a long slide that continued despite numerous player and coaching moves and failed to even qualify for the playoffs again until 1998. Long before that, running out of time and looking for a team with which he could win again, Gretzky had been traded from the Kings at his request. On February 27, 1996 he joined the St. Louis Blues in a trade for Patrice Tardif , Roman Vopat , Craig Johnson , and draft picks. While he scored 37 points in 31 games for the team (regular season and playoffs), and they got within one overtime game of the Conference finals, he never clicked with the team or with sniper Brett Hull on the ice as many had expected. On July 21, he signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent, rejoining Messier.
He ended his professional career with the Rangers, playing his final three seasons there and helping the team reach the conference finals in 1997. His last NHL season was 1998-99.
In 2003, Gretzky took to the ice one last time to help celebrate the Edmonton Oilers' 25th anniversary as an NHL team. The Heritage Classic, was the first NHL game to be played outdoors. Preceding the NHL game was an exhibition game that reunited Gretzky and many of the old-guard Oilers against a superstar Montreal Canadiens team. The game has subsequently been released on DVD.
Records and awards
Gretzky holds or shares 61 NHL records: 40 regular season, 15 playoff, and 6 All-Star. He holds single-season records for goals (92), assists (163) and points (215). He holds career playoff records for goals (122), assists (260), and points (382). He also holds the career regular season records for goals (894), assists (1,963) and points (2,857). His career assists total alone would place him as the NHL's leading points scorer. He won 9 Hart Trophies, the NHL's most valuable player award, and eight of these were awarded in consecutive years from 1980-1987. In fact, Gretzky holds the record for most MVP awards of any player in American professional sports. Gretzky also won a record 10 Art Ross Trophies (7 in a row from 1981-1987), 5 Lady Byng Trophies for sportsmanship, and a high standard of gentlemanly play, 2 Conn Smythe Trophies as the playoffs' MVP, and 5 Lester B. Pearson Awards as the League's outstanding player as judged by his peers. He won 3 All-Star Game MVP awards, tied for most ever. His jersey number, 99, was retired by all NHL teams.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 22, 1999, bypassing the 3-year waiting period. His daily "journal" was syndicated throughout Canada's newspapers detailing his thoughts and feelings about his induction as the day neared.
"The Royal Wedding"
He met American actress Janet Jones in 1984 when he was a judge on the show "Dance Fever" and she was a dancer, but they didn't begin dating until 1987. Their July 17, 1988 nuptials at St. Joseph's Basilica in Edmonton was dubbed "The Royal Wedding" by the press and broadcast live throughout Canada. "Guards" from the Edmonton Fire Department stood on the church steps. The event reportedly cost Gretzky over $1,000,000; Janet's dress alone cost $40,000. They have 5 children: Paulina, Ty, Trevor, Tristan, and Emma.
Gretzky was Executive Director of the Canadian men's hockey team at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. On February 18, he lashed out at the media at a press conference, frustrated with Canadian response and lack of support for its National team. Defenders said he was merely borrowing a page from former coach Glen Sather to take the pressure off his players. Canada beat the U.S. to win the gold medal 50 years to the day after the Edmonton Waterloo Mercurys won the nation's last gold. Wayne was also part of the team in Nagano as a player in 1998. That team failed to bring home a medal when they lost to Finland for the Bronze. Gretzky has also expressed interest in managing Canada's men's hockey team at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Off the ice
While in Edmonton, he endorsed everything from soft drinks and blue jeans to his own wallpaper, pillow cases, breakfast cereal, chocolate bars, and a Mattel "Great Gretzky" doll. Past and present plugs include Thrifty Car Rental, Peak Antifreeze, Ford Motor Company (in Canada only), Coca-Cola, Esso, McDonald's, Campbell's Soup, Primestar TV, Upper Deck, Nike, Ultra Wheels, Hallmark Cards, Zurich Insurance, Tylenol and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. He and his son Ty did commercials for the Sharp Viewcam. He hosted Saturday Night Live in 1989. He lent his likeness to a 1992 cartoon show, Pro-Stars, and video games in 1996 and 2004. He posed for the cover of Cigar Aficionado Magazine with Janet. In 1998, he launched a line of fashion menswear, and signed a licensing agreement with a phone card company. He owns a restaurant, Hespeler sports equipment, and co-owns a chain of roller-hockey rinks. After his retirement, he became the spokesman for Power Automotive Group of Southern California, and Tylenol Arthritis Formula. Forbes estimates that Gretzky earned $93.8 million from hockey and endorsements from 1990-98.
A "Gretzky" has also become the nickname of a legendary coffee at Tim Hortons: with 9 cream and 9 sugars (99, Gretzky's number).
|1977-78||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||OHA||64||70||112||182||14||--||--||--||--||--|
|1988-89||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||78||54||114||168||26||11||5||17||22||0|
|1989-90||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||73||40||102||142||42||7||3||7||10||0|
|1990-91||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||78||41||122||163||16||12||4||11||15||2|
|1991-92||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||74||31||90||121||34||6||2||5||7||2|
|1992-93||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||45||16||49||65||6||24||15||25||40||4|
|1993-94||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||81||38||92||130||20||--||--||--||--||--|
|1994-95||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||48||11||37||48||6||--||--||--||--||--|
|1995-96||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||62||15||66||81||32||--||--||--||--||--|
|1995-96||St. Louis Blues||NHL||18||8||13||21||2||13||2||14||16||0|
|1996-97||New York Rangers||NHL||82||25||72||210||57||25||10||10||20||2|
|1997-98||New York Rangers||NHL||93||98||63||99||28||--||--||--||--||--|
|1998-99||New York Rangers||NHL||70||9||53||62||14||--||--||--||--||--|
- Skate "to where the puck is going, not where it's been." -- From his father, Walter (Gretzky & Reilly, 1990, pg. 88.)
- "100% of the shots you don't take don't go in."
- Wayne Gretzky with Rick Reilly (1990). Gretzky: An Autobiography. An Edward Burlingame Book. ISBN 0060163399
- SLAM! Presents Wayne Gretzky, Canadian Online Explorer: SLAM! Sports.
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