Eighteen year old Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon broke one of Wayne Gretzky’s many NHL records earlier this week (the longest consecutive games point streak for an 18-year-old in NHL history). MacKinnon, born in 1995, was little more than a toddler when Gretzky retired from the NHL in 1999. Most of MacKinnon’s teenage contemporaries only know one Gretzky, and that would be Paulina Gretzky. Paulina is one of the five children Gretzky has with his American actress wife Janet Jones. While she claims to be a pop singer and actress, Paulina is best known for displaying her ample, scantily clad assets on Twitter and Instagram.
So, for all of the teenagers and others who aren’t hockey fans, a lesson on Wayne Gretzky appears to be in order. Wayne Gretzky wasn’t just a hockey player; in the 80s and 90s, Wayne Gretzky WAS hockey. Gretzky wasn’t drafted; at the age of eighteen, he was signed to a personal services contract by Peter Pocklington of the World Hockey Association’s Edmonton Oilers. When the WHA folded in 1979, and the Oilers were absorbed by the NHL, The Great One, as Gretzky was nicknamed, was born.
His WHA experience prevented him from winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of The Year in 1979, and he also lost out on the Art Ross Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top scorer. Those two losses were lessened by Grettzky winning the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s MVP, an award he would receive seven more times, consecutively. Gretzky avenged losing the scoring title in his rookie year by capturing that title for the next seven years as well. Numbers and statistics occasionally lie, but this was not true of Wayne Gretzky. During his tenure with the Edmonton Oilers, he captained the team to the Stanley Cup five times in seven years.
In Canada, where hockey is the National Sport, Gretzky was treated as royalty. When Gretzky married American Janet Jones in a lavish, million dollar wedding, the ceremony was broadcast live on Canadian television. Millions of Canadian girls who had imagined themselves the lucky bride watched and wept. When Gretzky was traded by the Oilers in 1988, Canadian citizens were furious to the point that they petitioned the government to block the trade. Despite the uproar, Gretzky was traded, along with Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski, to the Los Angeles Kings. Gretzky would stay with the Kings until 1996, when he was traded, at his request, to the St. Louis Blues. Gretzky would then move to the New York Rangers, where he made his final playoff appearance, as the Rangers lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1997 Conference Finals.
His retirement in 1999 ended the career of The Great One, but he has remained active in hockey. He coached the Phoenix Coyotes for three years and has a long term relationship with the Canadian Men’s Olympic Hockey team. Wayne Gretzky has influenced nearly every player in the NHL. Year after year, rookies have mimicked his skating style, his passing aspired to have a shot with Gretzky’s deadly accuracy, and yes, they have chased his records. Long after the trashy ‘selfies’ of his daughter are but a memory, the Legend of Wayne Gretzky will live on.