People Who Kick Buts: Wayne Gretsky
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
- Born on January 26, 1961.
- He played 20 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for four teams from 1979 to 1999.
- Nicknamed “The Great One”, he has been called “the greatest hockey player ever” by many sportswriters, players, and the NHL itself.
- He is the leading point-scorer in NHL history, with more assists than any other player has points, and is the only NHL player to total over 200 points in one season – a feat he accomplished four times.
- At the time of his retirement in 1999, he held 40 regular-season records, 15 playoff records, and six All-Star records. In addition to being its greatest scorer, Gretzky was the most gentlemanly superstar in the modern history of the NHL.
- Born and raised in Brantford, Ontario, Gretzky honed his skills at a backyard rink and regularly played minor hockey at a level far above his peers.
Despite his unimpressive stature, strength and speed, Gretzky’s intelligence and reading of the game were unrivaled. He was adept at dodging checks from opposing players, and he could consistently anticipate where the puck was going to be and execute the right move at the right time. Gretzky also became known for setting up behind his opponent’s net, an area that was nicknamed “Gretzky’s office” because of his adept skills in that area.
- After his retirement in 1999, he was immediately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, making him the most recent player to have the waiting period waived.
- Prior to World War I, Gretzky’s paternal grandfather Anton (Tony) Gretzky immigrated along with his family to Canada via the United States from the Russian Empire (what is now Grodno, Belarus). Following the war, Anton would marry his wife, Mary, who immigrated from Pidhaitsi, interwar Poland (now Ukraine).
Tony and Mary owned a 25-acre (10 ha) cucumber farm in Canning, Ontario where Walter Gretzky was born and raised and where he met Wayne’s mother, Phyllis Hockin.
- Gretzky’s first team, at age six, was a team of ten-year-olds, starting a pattern where Gretzky always played at a level far above his peers through his minor hockey years.
- 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.
- 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”.