- Gretzky, Wayne
▪ 2000On April 18, 1999, Canadian athlete Wayne Gretzky said goodbye to the National Hockey League (NHL) as he played in his last professional game. His retirement marked the end of a 20-year career, during which he rewrote record books and redefined the sport. Considered by many to be the best hockey player ever, Gretzky held more than 60 NHL records, including most goals (894) and most assists (1,963), and led the Edmonton Oilers to four Stanley Cups (in the 1983–84, 1984–85, 1986–87, and 1987–88 seasons). His style of play, which was based on speed and finesse, revolutionized a game that had been known more for its brawn. A role model both on and off the ice, he was largely responsible for turning the NHL into a major force in the sports world. Appropriately nicknamed the Great One, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November 1999.Born on Jan. 26, 1961, in Brantford, Ont., Gretzky early dreamed of becoming a baseball pitcher. It was his talent on the ice, however, that attracted attention. By the time he was 16, he was packing arenas in Canada as an amateur player. In 1978 he joined the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association (WHA), but after only eight games he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers. When the league folded, he moved with Edmonton to the NHL in 1979. Though he had been named the WHA Rookie of the Year, many questioned his ability to succeed in the NHL. Slight in size, he seemed ill-suited for the bruising physical play that dominated the game. Gretzky responded with a quickness and skill that soon reshaped the way the sport was played.In his first year in the NHL, he scored 51 goals and won the first of nine Hart Memorial Trophies as the league's most valuable player (1980–87, 1989). The following season he was the NHL's leading scorer, a title he held 10 times (1981–87, 1990–91, 1994). During the 1981–82 season, he became the first player to record more than 200 points in a single season, and his 51-game scoring streak two years later helped lead Edmonton to its first Stanley Cup. The Oilers dominated the sport until 1988, when Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. Although the deal stunned and saddened Canadians, it provided a much-needed boost to the sport in the U.S. Gretzky's popularity helped raise the profile of the NHL as new teams were added to the league and national networks began televising its games.In 1996 Gretzky was traded to the St. Louis Blues and during the off-season signed with the New York Rangers. Nagging injuries and age, however, began to take their toll, and during the 1998–99 season he announced that he would retire. Among his numerous achievements were 18 All-Star appearances and five Lady Byng Trophies for gentlemanly play. After Gretzky's last game, the NHL retired his number, 99.Amy Tikkanen
* * *▪ Canadian athletein full Wayne Douglas Gretzkyborn Jan. 26, 1961, Brantford, Ont., Can.Canadian ice-hockey player who was considered by many to be the greatest player in the history of the National Hockey League (NHL).Gretzky began skating at age two and a half and was first taught hockey by his father. By age 6 he was playing as an all-star in novice hockey with boys 10 and 11 years old. He progressed through organized age-group hockey, and in 1977 at the Junior World Cup competition, he was the youngest player and the leading scorer. Gretzky turned professional for the 1978–79 season, playing for the Indianapolis Racers in the World Hockey Association (WHA). His contract soon was sold to the Edmonton Oilers, who joined the NHL at the beginning of the 1979–80 season. As centre and team captain, Gretzky led the Oilers to four Stanley Cup victories (in the 1983–84, 1984–85, 1986–87, and 1987–88 seasons). Following the 1987–88 season, he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings.Gretzky's finesse and speed revolutionized the sport, which had been known for its physical play. In his first season with the Oilers, he scored 51 goals and 86 assists (137 total points). In the 1980–81 season he became the first player in NHL history to average more than two points a game. In the 1981–82 season he set NHL regular-season scoring records for goals (92), assists (120), and total points (212). (He broke the latter two records in the 1985–86 season with 163 assists and 215 total points.) Gretzky won the Art Ross Memorial Trophy (leading NHL scorer) for seven consecutive years, from the 1980–81 to the 1986–87 season, and won it again in 1989–90, 1990–91, and 1993–94. He was the first player to win the Hart Memorial Trophy, given to the most valuable player each season, for eight consecutive years (from the 1979–80 through the 1986–87 season), and he received it again in 1988–89.Early in the 1989–90 season Gretzky broke Gordie Howe (Howe, Gordie)'s NHL all-time scoring record of 1,850 points (the total number of goals and assists), and late in the 1993–94 season he broke Howe's record for career goals (801). In 1996 Gretzky was traded by the Los Angeles Kings to the St. Louis Blues. Later that year he signed with the New York Rangers. With his 1,851st assist, scored in a 1997 game against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Gretzky broke yet another record, scoring more assists than any player had scored points in an NHL career.Gretzky retired from professional play after the 1998–99 season and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999. His career totals include 2,857 points and 894 goals. The NHL retired his jersey number (99) after his final game. Gretzky became a minority owner of the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes in 2000, and he was named the Coyotes' head coach in 2005.
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