Wayne Douglas Gretzky, CC (/ˈɡrɛtski/; born January 26, 1961) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player and former head coach. He played 20 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for four teams from 1979 to 1999. Nicknamed "The Great One", he has been called "the greatest hockey player ever" by many sportswriters, players, and the NHL itself. He is the leading point-scorer in NHL history, with more assists than any other player has points, and is the only NHL player to total over 200 points in one season – a feat he accomplished four times. In addition, he tallied over 100 points in 16 professional seasons, 14 of them consecutive. At the time of his retirement in 1999, he held 61 NHL records: 40 regular-season records, 15 playoff records, and six All-Star records. As of 2014, he still holds 60 NHL records.
Born and raised in Brantford, Ontario, Gretzky honed his skills at a backyard rink and regularly played minor hockey at a level far above his peers. Despite his unimpressive stature, strength and speed, Gretzky's intelligence and reading of the game were unrivaled. He was adept at dodging checks from opposing players, and he could consistently anticipate where the puck was going to be and execute the right move at the right time. Gretzky also became known for setting up behind his opponent's net, an area that was nicknamed "Gretzky's office".
In 1978, he signed with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association (WHA), where he briefly played before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers. When the WHA folded, the Oilers joined the NHL, where he established many scoring records and led his team to four Stanley Cup championships. His trade to the Los Angeles Kings on August 9, 1988, had an immediate impact on the team's performance, eventually leading them to the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals, and he is credited with popularizing hockey in California. Gretzky played briefly for the St. Louis Blues before finishing his career with the New York Rangers. Gretzky captured nine Hart Trophies as the most valuable player, ten Art Ross Trophies for most points in a season, two Conn Smythe Trophies as playoff MVP, and five Lester B. Pearson Awards (now called the Ted Lindsay Award) for most outstanding player as judged by other players. He won the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship and performance five times, and often spoke out against fighting in hockey.
After his retirement in 1999, he was immediately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, making him the most recent player to have the waiting period waived. The NHL retired his jersey number 99 league-wide, making him the only player to receive this honour. He was one of six players voted to the International Ice Hockey Federation's (IIHF) Centennial All-Star Team. Gretzky became executive director for the Canadian national men's hockey team during the 2002 Winter Olympics, in which the team won a gold medal. In 2000, he became part owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, and following the 2004–05 NHL lockout he became the team's head coach. In 2004, he was inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. In September 2009, following the franchise's bankruptcy, Gretzky resigned as coach and relinquished his ownership share.
By Dean Hanley
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