Wayne Gretzky

Professional hockey player. Born January 26, 1961, in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. One of the most famous players of all time, Wayne Gretzky set 61 National Hockey League scoring records and played in 18 All-Star games in his 21-year career. His uniquely smart and elegant playing style redefined the image of a great hockey champion, and his retirement in 1999 marked the end of an era in the sport.

Gretzky began skating when he was about three years old. His father, Walter—a former amateur hockey player and his eldest son’s dedicated first coach—flooded the backyard with water to create a makeshift ice rink, stringing lights up around it so the young Gretzky could skate at night. At age six, Gretzky began playing on the Brantford Novice All-Star team, outplaying many of the older boys in the Bantam League. As the only Canadian representative in the Junior World Cup tournament held in Montreal in 1977, Gretzky was the youngest player and the leading scorer. He turned pro the next year, making his debut with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Assocation.

In late 1978, his contract was sold to the Edmonton Oilers, one of the more successful teams in the failing WHA. When the NHL merged with the WHA at the beginning of the next season, Gretzky became the league’s youngest MVP ever, as well as the youngest player to score 50 or more goals and 100 or more points in a single season.

Gretzky led the Oilers to four Stanley Cup Championships during the 1980s. In his best season, 1981-82, he scored 92 goals—still an NHL record. When he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988, it became somewhat of a national tragedy in his native Canada. His career continued throughout the next decade with the Kings, the St. Louis Blues, and the New York Rangers. Known as “the Great One,” or “the Great Gretzky,” he became by far the most recognizable player in hockey and helped spread the sport’s popularity into previously unreached corners of the United States, including Southern California and Florida.

In April 1999, Gretzky hung up his skates after 21 years as a professional. His incredible number of accolades include career and single game records in goals, assists, and points. As Canada’s Prime Minister Jean Chrétein put it: “This is truly a bittersweet moment….We can take heart from the endless, magical memories [Gretzky] has given us.” In November 1999, after a waiving of the mandatory three-year waiting period, the Great One was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame.

Gretzky is married to Janet Jones, an actress. They have three children.

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