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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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In late summer of 1988, however, the unthinkable happened when the Oilers traded Gretzky to Los Angeles for a slew of players, draft picks and cash. Speculation has swirled around the exact reason for the trade. Popular opinion has long suggested that Gretzky, who'd recently married the actress Janet Jones, had pushed for the trade in order to further his wife's career.
But another theory banks on the idea that the NHL, fearing that its greatest asset was being wasted in Edmonton,
forced the move. If Gretzky was in Los Angeles, the reasoning went, hockey's best player could greatly help the league become relevant in southern California.
Regardless of why the trade happened, in the fall of 1988, Gretzky donned a Kings jersey for the first time. Over the next eight seasons he led the franchise, not quite dominating the league as he once had, but still making his case as the NHL's best player. In 1993, he even steered the franchise to the Stanley Cup finals, where the club lost to the Montreal Canadiens in five games.
In 1996 Gretzky left L.A. to play for the St. Louis Blues. After just one season with the franchise, he was on the move again, this time to the New York Rangers, where he played three more years and finished out his career in 1999.
By almost every measure, Gretzky is hockey's most dominant scorer and quite possibly its greatest player. In all, he holds or shares 61 NHL records, including most career goals (894), most career assists (1,102) and most points (1,850).
"Not only am I mentally ready to retire, I'm physically ready to retire," he said after his last game. "It's hard. This is a great game, but it's a hard game. I'm ready."
Not long after hanging up his skates, Gretzky was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. In addition, he continued to stay in close contact with the game and the league.
With Gretzky at the helm as the program's executive director, Canada's men's Olympic hockey team ended its 50-year drought and took home the gold medal at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.
Shortly after assuming his Olympic duties, Gretzky also came aboard as the managing partner of the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes in early 2001. Over the course of several seasons, Gretzky served in the front office and as the team's head coach.
Despite the excitement surrounding his association with the club, coach Gretzky was never able to lead the club to the playoffs, much less fill the arena with fans. In September 2009, after four tough seasons, he stepped down as coach. He eventually relinquished his ownership of the team.
Gretzky, who's become involved in both the restaurant business and the wine business over the years, lives with his family in California.
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