Wayne Gretzky is an NHL superstar who played 20 seasons in the league from 1979 to 1999. Nicknamed “The Great One”, Gretzky is widely regarded as the greatest hockey player of all time. He played for four different NHL teams, holds countless records across the league, and has won many NHL awards. Gretzky also represented Team Canada in international play on many occasions.
Wayne Gretzky’s professional hockey career actually began in the World Hockey Association (WHA), not the NHL. He was never drafted in an NHL draft. He originally signed with the Indianapolis Racers in 1978 before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers. In 1979, the WHA folded and the Oilers joined the NHL. Gretzky played for the Oilers from 1979 through 1988, winning numerous awards and four Stanley Cups.
In August of 1988, Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in a massive deal that shook the hockey world. Known as “The Trade”, this deal is looked at negatively by many, but positively by others. Gretzky’s move to L.A. helped make hockey more popular in the United States, particularly in California, and helped the NHL expand to the southern United States throughout the 1990s. Gretzky played in Los Angles from 1988 to 1996. He never won a Stanley Cup in L.A. but did make the Finals in 1993.
The Great One made a quick stop in St. Louis in 1996, where he spent the second half of the 1995-96 season. He played well, but the team lost in the second round of the playoffs. Gretzky became a free agent after the 1996 season ended.
Gretzky signed with the New York Rangers in the summer of 1996 and finished his career with them in 1999. He was in the twilight of his career at this point but still produced well offensively. Gretzky retired after the 1998-99 season.
Records and Awards
Wayne Gretzky holds or shares a total of 61 NHL records. Some of the most notable include: most career goals (894), most career assists (1,962), most career points (2,856), most goals in a season (92), most assists in a season (163), and most points in a season (215). Many of these records will likely never be broken.
On top of breaking so many NHL records, Gretzky also won numerous awards throughout his NHL career. He won many of them multiple times. Some of the most notable awards he won are as follows:
Stanley Cup four times, all with the Edmonton Oilers (1984, 1985, 1987, and 1988).
Hart Trophy (League MVP) nine times (1980-87, 1989)
Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP) twice (1985 and 1988)
Art Ross Trophy (NHL Leading Scorer) ten times (1981-87, 1990, 1991, and 1994)
Lady Byng Award (Sportsmanship) five times (1980, 1991, 1992, 1994, and 1999)
Gretzky represented Team Canada internationally many times throughout his playing career. He won a bronze medal in the 1978 World Junior Championships, and a silver medal at the 1981 Canada Cup. He also won gold medals at the Canada Cup in 1984, 1987, and 1991, and a silver medal at the World Cup of Hockey in 1996. Finally, he played for Canada at the 1998 Winter Olympics (the first year NHL players were allowed), but the team lost in the bronze medal game.
When Wayne Gretzky retired, he left behind a legacy that will likely never be matched. As stated, he is widely regarded as the greatest hockey player of all time. His career statistics, records, and awards certainly support that.
He also played a big part in the success of hockey in the United States. His time with the L.A. Kings played a huge role in the growth of hockey in California and other “non-traditional” hockey markets. Without Gretzky, it’s safe to say the NHL would never have become as popular or as widespread as it has. Finally, Gretzky was immediately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame upon his retirement in 1999, and his #99 is retired league-wide. He is the most recent and one of the only players to have the normal waiting period waived before his induction.