On February 22, 2002, Wayne Gretzky made history as the architect of Canada's first gold medal in Olympic men's hockey in 50 years. It proved that three years after retirement, "The Great One's" contribution to the game and country he loves is not over.
Gretzky was only ten years old when his talent as the defenceman-winger-centre for the Brantford Nadrofsky Steelers caught the attention of Toronto Telegram sportswriter John Iaboni. His story about the prolific 369-goal scorer turned out to be a glimpse of what was in store for the greatest hockey player to lace up a pair of skates.
Gretzky was born on January 26, 1961. By age two his father and "greatest coach," Walter already had his son on skates. By the time he joined the Nadrofsky Steelers, he already had a reputation of carving out scoring opportunities against players twice his age and taller than his modest height.
At 15, he joined the Ontario Hockey Association, turning professional two years later as an underage junior with the Indianapolis Racers in the now defunct World Hockey Association (WHA). He only played eight games for the Racers (chalking up three goals and three assists) before being traded to the WHA's Edmonton Oilers where he was named WHA Rookie of the Year.
In 1979, the Edmonton Oilers entered the National Hockey League (NHL). Gretzky remained in Edmonton nine seasons, leading the Oilers to four Stanley Cups, and helping to build hockey's strongest franchise of the 1980s.
Not surprisingly, Gretzky's trade to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988 made front-page news and topped all national newscasts. Gretzky was the ambassador of hockey; the struggling Kings needed to fill seats, and the NHL wanted to promote its game in the United States.
Since joining the NHL, Gretzky has had more impact on the record book than any other player. By the time he retired, The Great One held over 60 NHL records and most of the sport's prestigious hardware, including nine Hart Trophies for most valuable player and five Lester B. Pearson Trophies for MVP as voted by other players.
His most cherished record, however, came on October 25, 1989, when he scored two goals and an assist to surpass the all-time points record set by his hero, Gordie Howe.
Wayne Gretzky retired from professional hockey as a New York Ranger on April 18, 1999. In addition to the NHL, and his considerable charity work, he has made Canadians proud on the world stage - particularly as Executive Director of Team Canada for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Additionally, Gretzky is part owner of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Canada's Walk of Fame Trivia:
Wayne Gretzky's first jersey was No. 9 after his hockey hero, Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings.