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Arguably hockey's greatest player, Wayne Gretzky played for the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and the New York Rangers during his long career.
Watching young Wayne Gretzky score countless times and set numerous records was a source of national pride for the hockey-loving residents of Canada. But for the parents of his teammates, it was hard to watch their kids on the bench.
When hockey legend Maurice "Rocket" Richard set the record for most goals in a season, nobody thought it could be broken. Then the great one took the ice.
As a baby in Canada, it was a foregone conclusion that Wayne Gretzky would put on ice skates. But no one could have predicted where those skates would take him.
Even "The Great One" couln''t stop time, and as his body aged the other players got younger and faster.
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Hockey player and NHL Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky was born in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, in 1961. He started skating at age 2 and by the age of 6 was regularly playing with older boys. He played his first full NHL season in 1979-80 for the Edmonton Oilers. Over the next two decades, he dominated the sport, setting a host of league records. He retired in 1999 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame that same year.
"You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take."
"[Hockey is] hard. This is a great game, but it's a hard game."
Widely considered hockey's greatest player, Wayne Douglas Gretzky was born on January 26, 1961, in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. A precise and hard-working player, Gretzky was just 2 years old when he first started skating.
The young Gretzky spent countless hours on the ice, honing his talents as a skater, shooter and passer. As a result, Gretzky often played in leagues that catered to older boys.
The age and size differences between Gretzky and his competition mattered little. In his final year of peewee hockey he scored an improbable 378 goals.
By the time he was a teenager, Gretzky was making waves across Canada with his play. At the age of 15 he started playing for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey Association, where his dominance continued. His future status as an NHL star was furthered at the 1978 World Junior Championships in Quebec City, where Gretzky played for his home country and led the entire tournament in scoring.
Eager to turn professional but barred from leaping to the NHL because of the league's age restrictions, Gretzky signed with the Indianapolis Racers of the fledgling World Hockey Association in the fall of 1978. But not long after Gretzky arrived, the franchise closed its doors and sold its young asset to the NHL's Edmonton Oilers.
In the fall of 1979, Gretzky embarked on his first full NHL season. As he had at every other level, he quickly started to dominate the competition, racking up an astonishing 51 goals and 86 assists, on his way to winning the league's Hart Memorial Trophy, an award recognizing its most valuable player. It was the first time a first-year player had ever been honored with the award.
Soon enough, Edmonton came to be a championship juggernaut. With Gretzky leading the way, the Oilers finished as Stanley Cup champions in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988. As his team won, Gretzky blazed through the record books by posting unfathomable numbers. In 1982, he cracked the 200-point barrier for the first time, setting a single-season record with 92 goals, while also collecting 120 assists. His finest year may have been 1986, a season in which he totaled 52 goals and an NHL single-season record, 163 assists.
With the big numbers came plenty of adoration from Canadian hockey fans. Nicknamed The Great One, Gretzky captivated Canadian sports fans as few sports stars ever had. On toy store shelves, the Wayne Gretzky doll was a part of the inventory, and in 1983 the government of Canada even issued an official Wayne Gretzky dollar coin. Helping the player's celebrity status was his quiet, humble attitude, which helped ensure he wouldn't do anything off the ice to tarnish his image.
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