A Hockey Great – Wayne Gretzky
Wayne Gretzky was acknowledged as one of the all time great hockey players by nearly everyone when he broke several of Gordie Howe’s records. He became the all time leading scorer with his 802nd goal, and also the all time point-getter when he got his 1852nd point.
Wayne was born and raised in Ontario, Canada, and his father built a backyard ice rink when Wayne was six years old. He practiced daily for hours, with his dad teaching him the skills of skating, shooting, and stickhandling. Even at the age of six, Wayne was playing on a team of ten year olds, far beyond the normal skill range of a six year old. One year he got 378 goals on a peewee team, and earned the nickname “The White Tornado” because of his talents and his white gloves.
Wayne moved to Toronto at the age of fourteen to have more opportunities in hockey, and at 16 played in the World Junior Championship. He was thought too small and slight to even make the Canadian team, but once there, he was named top center and was the leader in scoring for the entire competition. Wayne knew that he wanted to play professional hockey, but at 17 was too young for the minimum NHL draft age of 20, so he signed a contract with the Indianapolis Racers. That hockey team had financial troubles, and so Gretzky was moved to the Edmonton Oilers, where he became universally noticed. In his first year at Edmonton he attracted a lot of notice, but only won one hockey trophy that year, the Hart Trophy.
The next year, 1980, began Wayne’s march to claim many of the hockey statistics as his own. He won his first scoring title, and made a new assists record of 109, to surpass Bobby Orr. The following year, he went past Phil Esposito’s record of 76 goals in one season, which many people had thought would stand forever. Gretzky scored 92 goals in one season, which many people now view as simply impossible to break. He also registered 212 points in a season, and he is the only player to ever have done that. He is the only hockey player to break 200 points in a season, and he repeated that feat for four seasons.
Gretzky had a few signature moves. He was known for not using a man skating ahead of him, but instead using the trailing man on rushes. When the team had a penalty, Gretzky did not ice the puck in a defensive role, but rather tried to surprise the other team by scoring shorthanded. He would also skate past the blue line and then curl, where he would wait for a defensemen to join him and create a real scoring chance. “Gretzky’s office” was the area behind the other team’s goal, because he made so many perfect passes for scoring opportunities from there.
After playing with several teams, Wayne Gretzky ended his professional hockey career with the New York Rangers in the 1998-1999 season. The National Hockey League retired his number 99, a fitting tribute to a remarkable player.