What discussion of the great game of ice hockey does not begin and end with Wayne Gretzky? You may or may not be a fan of the Great One, but you can no easier deny his dominance and the impact he had on the game than you can convince Rosie O’Donnell that subtle is better.
Growing up as a huge NBA enthusiast (my tenure as a fan began when I was about 8-10 years old with Julius Erving and ended with the retirement of Sir Charles Barkley), I was no Chicago Bulls fan, but once Michael Jordan entered the scene, you just knew you were seeing something special.
And like Gretzky (indeed perhaps the only viable similarity to Gretzky), whether you loved him or hated him, you certainly had to grant the man his place in sports history.
Over the years, many have been tempted to compare the likes of Wayne Gretzky’s dominance in the sport of ice hockey to Michael Jordan’s own personal statistical stranglehold on professional basketball. Still others are tempted to compare Tiger Wood’s dominance in professional golf to the statistical marvel of the Great One.
Any such comparisons are done in vain.
Yes, each of the aforementioned superstars dominated (or is dominating) their respective sport. But no one did it with the sheer inescapable magnitude of Wayne Gretzky over his twenty year career in professional ice hockey.
To put Gretzky’s feats in perspective, if Michael Jordan were to match the Great One’s single-season scoring record—statistically speaking—he would have had to average over 70 points per game.
Gretzky started playing Junior B hockey at 14 years old, winning a challenge to existing Canadian amateur hockey rules. That first season, he won rookie of the year, totaling 60 points in 28 games.
As many well know, over his career in the NHL, Gretzky had more assists (1,963) than second place on the all-time POINTS list (Mark Messier with 1,887).
His record of 2,857 points will never be surpassed.
All said, Wayne Gretzky holds:
40 regular season records
15 playoff records
6 All-Star records
He won 4 Stanley Cups (Oilers), garnered 9 MVP awards, and was the leading scorer in the NHL 10 different seasons.
Not only is he the only player to ever tally more than 200 points in a single season, he accomplished the feat four times. He scored over 100 points in a season 13 consecutive times, with a total of 15. He also turned 50 hat tricks.
Arguably there has never been a player with such a natural sense of puck flow, ice position, and the ability to create time and space. It was said the Great One had eyes in the back of his head.
In one game, he scored on the drop of the face-off puck twice, against the same goalie.
His greatest attribute, perhaps, was not exemplified by his grace with a stick and puck but rather his presence without them. No dominant force was ever so humble. Rick Reilly, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, once proclaimed the biggest challenge of interviewing Wayne Gretzky was getting him to say anything about himself.
Whether you loved him or hated him, to deny him his place in history is impossible. He was an ambassador for the sport, and reinforced the notion that hockey could be (and is) a game of grace, skill, and honor.