60 Interesting Facts About Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Douglas Gretzky is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player and former head coach. He is one of the greatest ice hockey players of all time. Here are some interesting facts about Wayne Gretzky that cover his childhood, education, ice hockey career, personal life, family and much more. 

1. Wayne Douglas Gretzky was born on January 26, 1961, in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. He became hooked on ice hockey while watching National Hockey League games on the ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ program with his family at his grandparent’s farm. He was ice skating by the age of two years and ten months.

2. He developed his hockey skills playing in the back yard of the family home (which was jokingly nicknamed ‘Wally Coliseum’ after his father Walter). Coached by his father, he played against his friends and siblings Keith, Glen, and Brent. Advised by his father to ‘go where the puck’s going, not where it has been’, he was already showing the skills that would make him an ice hockey legend.

Steve Jobs during his Apple product presentation.
Steve Jobs emphasizing on Wayne Gretzky’s quote during his Apple product presentation. Image credit – Nobuyuki Hayashi

3. The family actually moved into a house in Brantford, after living in an apartment, seven months after Wayne was born. Gretzky’s father says it was chosen partly because its yard was flat enough to make an ice rink on it in winter. By age two, Wayne was already trying to score goals against his sister Mary using a souvenir stick.

4. Gretzky was a prodigy at ice hockey and his extraordinary skill allowed him play with ten year olds (when he was aged only six) in the Novice ‘A’ Division of the Brantford Nadrofsky Steelers team in 1967, where he scored a goal in his first season playing for this team.

5. He was too small for the sweaters that ten year-olds wore and his solution was to tuck them into his pants on the right side so that they didn’t look like a dress. If you look carefully at his games you’ll notice that he continued this tradition all the way through his NFL career.

6. He was dubbed ‘the Great Gretzky’ for the first time by a London, Canada newspaper when he scored an astonishing 378 goals and 139 assists in the 1971-72 season while still playing for the Brantford Nadrofsky Steelers novice division team.

7. Gretzky told a reporter for a Toronto Telegram article at the time, that he was inspired to play ice hockey after watching his favourite player, Gordie Howe, on the ice. Howe was called Mr. Hockey during his career playing for the Detroit Red Wings and was a legend of the game, just as the young Gretzky would go on to become.

8. In the 1972-73 season, at the age of 11, Gretzky moved over to Peewee League where he played for the Turkstra Lumber team. He continued to display his uncanny ice hockey skills and by the age of 13, he had passed the 1000 career points milestone. Of those, 369 were achieved before he was 10 years old while playing for the Brantford Nadrofsky Steelers.

9. His popularity and amazing skill brought him adulation and popularity as a child but also had its negative side. The parents of other players (including those of his own team mates) had issues with his style of play, probably because he was so good and overshadowed all other participants, and he was often booed on the field and called a ‘puck hog’.

10. At the age of 14, after obtaining permission from Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, Gretzky moved to Toronto. There he played in the Metro Junior ‘B’ Hockey league of the Toronto Nationals where he received the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award in the 1975-76 season, during which he scored 60 points in 28 games.

Ford GT with number 99
Ford GT with number 99. Image credit – Ian Muttoo

11. Gretzky first wore a jersey emblazoned with his famous number 99, when playing for Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League. He wanted to use the number Gordie Howe (whom he idolized) wore, which was number 9, but was offered 99 instead by his coach, Muzz MacPherson, which he wore until the end of his career.

12. In 1978 he made his international debut for his country at the 1978 World Junior Championship competition held in Montreal, Quebec. Not only was he the youngest player (at 16 years of age) ever to play in the tournament, he was also the highest scorer with 17 points.

13. Gretzky turned professional at the age of 17 on June 12, 1978 when he joined the Indianapolis Racers playing in the World Hockey League. He signed a seven year personal contract for which he received US$ 1.75 million. He scored his first professional goal in his fifth game with the Indianapolis Racers against the Edmonton Oilers.

14. The Edmonton Oilers bought his contract within a month of his professional debut and the team joined the NHL at the beginning of the 1979 – 80 season. When he joined the team, Gretzky signed a ten year personal contract with Peter Pocklington for C$3 million.

15. Remarkably, when Gretzky arrived in the NHL, he was discounted as a player. He was considered too small, too wiry and too slow since he only weighed 73 kg and was 183 cm tall. His remarkable physical stamina, however, combined with a sneaky and lightning fast scoring shot made him one of the most accurate scorers in the game and shut his critics up.

16. He finished the league as the third highest scorer with 110 points and was awarded the Lou Kaplan Trophy as rookie of the year. He also played in the 1979 WHA All-Star Game.

17. After NHL acquired the WHA, he carried his success over to the following season where he tied for the highest scorer with 137 points with 51 goals. He became the youngest player ever to score 50 goals in NHL history and was awarded the Most Valuable Player award.

18. In the 1980-81 season he also added several more records to his name. He won the Art Ross Trophy with a then record of 164 points. He surpassed the goal assists record held by Bobby Orr with 102 assists points as well as Phil Esposito’s record of 152 points in a season; he also made five single assists in a single game against the Montreal Canadians.

19. He made his debut with the Canada’s national men’s team at the Labatt Canada Cup in September 1981 and seven months later helped Canada win the Bronze medal at the 1982 World Championships in Finland, once more being the tournament’s highest scorer with 14 points in 10 games.

20. As center and team captain, Gretzky ended up leading the Edmonton Oilers to four Stanley Cup victories (in the following seasons: 1983 – 84, 1984 – 85, 1986 – 87, and 1987 – 88). Following the 1987 – 88 season, he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings.

facts about Wayne Gretzky
Reagan greeting Hockey player Wayne Gretzky at a Luncheon for National Hockey League All Stars, 2-8-82. Image credit – Levan Ramishvili

21. In 1982, Gretzky became the first hockey player (and Canadian) to be named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year and Sports Illustrated magazine’s ‘Sportsman of the Year.’ In that year he recorded 92 goals, 120 assists and 212 points in 80 games in the season.

22. Gretzky is the only player in NHL history to have captained four different teams during his career and won the Stanley cup with only one: the Edmonton Oilers (although he did do so four times).

23. Gretzky became the first player to score 50 goals in less than 50 games; he accomplished this in only 39 games during the 1981 – 82 season (including scoring a remarkable five goals against the Philadelphia Flyers). He broke the previous record held by both Mike Bossy and Maurice Richard (50 goals in 50 games) that had stood for 35 years.

24. Gretzky is the only player in NHL history to pass the 200 points mark in a single season. More remarkably still, he would repeat this feat three more times in the following four years. The only person to come close, falling short by just one point, was Pittsburgh Penguins star Mario Lemieux in 1989.

25. Gretzky’s holds the record for the highest number of goals in a single season; one of the most remarkable records in the game (and possible sporting) history. His record of 92 goals in the 1981-82 season was achieved when he was only 21 years old and is arguably a record as amazing as Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak.

26. The closest that anyone has come is Brett Hull (86 in 1990-91) and Mario Lemieux (85 in 1988-89). To put this in perspective, while two players have reached the 70 goal mark since then (Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny), no-one has scored more than 65 in the last twenty years.

27. Even if Gretzky had not scored a single goal he would still be the NHL’s all time leading scorer. He holds the NHL record of 2,857 career points, which is 970 more than the player that ranks second, his former team-mate Mark Messier.

28. Even if Gretzky had not scored any of his 894 goals (also a record), he would still be the league’s all-time leading scorer with 1,963 assists. This is a good example of why Gretzky is, without question, the best offensive player that hockey has ever seen, and likely will ever see.

29. Another record that is unlikely to be broken is the fact that he won eight consecutive Hart Trophies starting in his first NHL season (1979-80) when he scored 51 goals and provided 86 assists to achieve his first most valuable player award of his career. He also won a ninth, another record, in 1988-89 with the Los Angeles Kings.

30. The only other players to win consecutive Hart Trophies after Gretzky’s eight straight wins are Dominik Hasek (1997, 1998) and Alexander Ovechkin (2008, 2009).

Wayne Gretzky's statue
Wayne Gretzky’s statue. Image credit – Josh McConnell

31. Gretzky holds over 60 NHL records, including most goals of all time (894), most points of all time (2,857) and the most in a season (215), most assists of all time (1,963) and the most in one season (163), most hat-tricks in a regular season (50), most career playoff goals (122) and playoff assists (260) and most playoff game winning goals (24) to name just a few.

32. Two of the records that he holds are probably close to his heart: in the 1989-90 season he broke his hero Gordie Howe’s all time scoring record of 1850 points while in the 1993-94 season he bested Howe’s 801 career goals.

33. Unlike other hockey players, Gretzky’s size and strength were unimpressive. He is regarded, however, as the smartest player in the history of the game and this more than made up for his diminutive stature. His ability to read the game and improvise on the fly was unmatched by any other player before or since. He could anticipate where the puck was going to be, as his father taught him in his childhood, and positioned himself accordingly.

34. Gretzky is also regarded as one of the most creative players in the game, with opponents never able to predict what move he would make next. Coaches said that while others were using all their strength to block their opponents, Gretzky would be skating, circling and analyzing the play until he saw the right opportunity and then pounced.

35. Gretzky also had incredible stamina, like his hero Gordie Howe, and coaches said he had an incredible ability to renew his energy quickly. When Gretzky was asked about his abilities he said he had no innate talent and that it was all down to his father’s brilliant coaching about anticipation. He said that sometimes he didn’t even need to look to know where a player would be or how they would play a shot – he just did it differently, unexpectedly.

36. Gretzky was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 1984 (and invested in 1998) for his contributions to sport. He was later promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2009 as one of the best players of all time and an outstanding role model to young people.

37. Gretzky retired from professional hockey after the 1998-99 season and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of fame that year – the only player for whom the waiting period for being inducted was waived.

38. Teams often retire the number of a player that has had a long, distinguished career which means it is never worn by another player. However, until Wayne Gretzky graced the hockey ring, no-one has had their number retired from every team in the league. His number 99 was retired league-wide at the 2000 All Star game because of his incredible contribution to the game and the likelihood that there would ever be another player like him.

Wayne Gretzky and his wife Janet
Wayne Gretzky and his wife Janet. Image credit – Red Carpet Report on Mingle Media TV

39. Gretzky met his wife Janet Jones when he was a celebrity judge on a dancing competition TV show, Dance Fever.

40. He is reported to have proposed over the phone and he later confirmed this in an interview. In his defence, he says that she was away for over a month at the time and he just casually mentioned it while they were chatting. There was a ‘proper dinner’ subsequently where he proposed properly, he said.

41. When they announced their marriage, the people of Edmonton were overjoyed and called it Canada’s own Royal Wedding. In July 1998, thousands of Edmontonians (reportedly over 10,000) lined the streets to wish the couple well on their way to a lavish ceremony at St. Josephs Basilica where the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra provided the music.

42. Gretzky is known for his years of good works and the support he offers many charities so the orchestra volunteered their services and others provided classic cars for the ceremony to show their thanks.

43. Janet Jones’ wedding ring allegedly cost more than a quarter of a million dollars, her dress over $40,000 and guests reputedly sipped on $3000 bottles of champagne in a ceremony that was said to cost more than $1 million. Only the best for the special occasion with The Great One sparing no expense.

44. The couple have five children to date: Paulina, Ty, Trevor, Tristan and Emma. They all seem to have inherited the sport gene but only his son Ty followed in his father’s footsteps and became a hockey player at school (he has since given up the game, however).

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