WAYNE GRETZKY Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Wayne Douglas Gretzky (born January 26, 1961) was a Canadian professional ice hockey player. Born in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, he is known as “The Great One,” and considered by many to be the best player of all time.


Early Years Taught by his father, Walter, Gretzky was a classic prodigy. At 6, he was skating with 10 year-olds. At 10, he scored 378 goals in 85 games, and the first story on him was published in the Toronto Telegram (now the Toronto Sun). At 14, playing against 20 year-olds, he left Brantford to further his career and escape the jealousy his on-ice achievements often created. His parents appointed a couple they had never met to be the boy’s legal guardians. He also signed with his first agent.


He played one year in the Ontario Hockey League at the age of 16, with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. There he began wearing 99 on his jersey, since his idol Gordie Howe’s number 9 was being worn by a teammate. The next year, he signed with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association. Eight games into the season, his contract was bought by Peter Pocklington, owner of the Edmonton Oilers; the Racers folded 5 weeks later.


NHL Career


After the 1978-79 season, four WHA teams, including the Oilers, joined the National Hockey League. In his first NHL season, 1979-80, Gretzky was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy as the League’s Most Valuable Player (the first of eight in a row) and tied for the scoring lead with Marcel Dionne with 137 points. (Dionne earned the Art Ross Memorial Trophy as the League’s leading scorer because he had more goals.) Gretzky was not eligible for the Calder Memorial Trophy, given to the top NHL rookie, because of his previous year of professional experience.


In his second season, Gretzky won the Art Ross (the first of seven consecutive years) with a single-season record 164 points, and won his second straight Hart Trophy. The Oilers were a young, strong team featuring forwards Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and Jari Kurri, defenseman Paul Coffey, goalie Grant Fuhr, and Gretzky as its captain. In 1983, they made it to the Stanley Cup finals, only to be swept by the three-time defending champion New York Islanders. The following season, the Oilers met the Islanders in the Finals again, this time winning the first of four Stanley Cups over the next five years.
Breaking Goal Records


In 1981, Gretzky became the fastest player to 50 goals in a season. Breaking “Rocket” Richard’s record of 50 goals in 50 games (acheived during the 1944-45 season), Gretzky took 39 games to reach the same tally when, on December 30, Gretzky scored on an empty net in the remaining seconds of the game against Philadelphia, to win the game 7-5. Gretzky scored 5 of Edmonton’s goals.


On February 24, 1982, Gretzky broke Phil Esposito’s record for most goals in a season of 76, when he scored four goals to help beat the Buffalo Sabres 6-3. It was not an entirely unexpected event, for Esposito was on hand to present Gretzky with the record-breaking game puck.


During the rest of the 1981-1982 season, Gretzky would go on to break yet another scoring record, netting an amazing 92 goals in the 80 game season as well as amassing 212 points, another record thought unobtainable.


Athlete of the Decade


In 1982, Gretzky became the first hockey player and Canadian to be named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. He was also named Sports Illustrated Magazine’s 1982 “Sportsman of the Year.” In 1990, the AP named him Male Athlete of the Decade.


“The Trade”


In a move that drastically changed the dynamics of the NHL, Gretzky was traded with Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski by the Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings for Jimmy Carson , Martin Gelinas, $15 million cash and the Kings’ first-round draft picks in 1989, 1991 and 1993 on August 9, 1988. “The Trade,” as it came to be known, so upset Canadians that one lawmaker demanded the government block it, Pocklington was burned in effigy, and Gretzky’s wife, Janet, was branded hockey’s Yoko Ono.


There is debate as to whether Gretzky “jumped” or was “pushed.” A book by former Kings owner Bruce McNall quotes Pocklington as saying Gretzky had become impossible to deal with, and Janet let it be known that she was not going to live in Edmonton after they got married. Pocklington claims he’s had only nice things to say about the couple, yet admitted the trade was a business decision he wouldn’t hesitate to make again. Gretzky himself admitted to People Magazine at the time that living in celebrity-drenched Los Angeles appealed to him since it offered his child the anonymity he would not have in Canada. Still, Pocklington remains disliked by some Canadian hockey fans to this day.


Gretzky’s first season in Los Angeles saw a marked increase in attendance and fan interest in a city not previously known for following ice hockey. The Kings, who then played their home games at the Great Western Forum, boasted numerous sellouts on their way to reaching the 88-89 playoffs. Despite being heavy underdogs against his old squad, Gretzky led the new-look Kings on and off the ice to a shocking upset of the defending Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers. Many credit Gretzky’s arrival with putting Southern California on “the NHL map"; now, California is home to three NHL franchises, more than any other U.S. state or Canadian province.


Gretzky led the Kings to the Cup finals in 1993. However, due to his cozy relationship with McNall (with whom he bought one of the fabled Honus Wagner tobacco baseball cards), he was accused of “playing” General Manager: he replaced career King Dave Taylor as captain in 1989; coaches Robbie Ftorek and Barry Melrose were fired and teammates Bernie Nicholls and Luc Robitaille were traded when they fell out of favor; Kurri, Coffey, and Fuhr joined the team. Despite these moves, the Kings continued on a downward spiral. On February 27, 1996, the new owners, with whom Gretzky did not get along, traded him at his request to the St. Louis Blues for Patrice Tardif , Roman Vopat , Craig Johnson , and draft picks. While he scored 37 points in 31 games for the team (regular season and playoffs), and they got within one overtime game of the Conference finals, Gretzky seemed to clash with bombastic coach Mike Keenan and never clicked with Brett Hull on the ice as many expected. On July 21, he signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent, re-joining Messier.


In 2003, Gretzky took to the ice one last time to help celebrate the Edmonton Oilers’ 25th anniversary as an NHL team. The Heritage Classic, as it was called, was the first NHL game in decades to be played outdoors and reunited many of the old guard Oilers against a superstar Montreal Canadiens team.


As an aside, one outcome of the game was a run on Canadiens’ toques. Due to Gretzky’s affiliation with Ford, the Edmonton team donned Ford toques and not Oilers toques, missing out on a lucrative merchandising deal.


The game has subsequently been released on DVD.


Records and Awards


Gretzky holds or shares 61 NHL records: 40 regular season, 15 playoff, and 6 All-Star. He holds single-season records for goals (92), assists (163) and points (215). He holds career playoff records for goals (122), assists (260), and points (382). He also holds the career regular season records for goals (894), assists (1,963) and points (2,857). His career assists total alone would place him as the NHL’s leading points scorer. He won 9 Hart Trophies, the NHL’s most valuable player award, and eight of these were awarded in consecutive years from 1980-1987. In fact, Gretzky holds the record for most MVP awards of any player in American professional sports. Gretzky also won a record 10 Art Ross Trophies (7 in a row from 1981-1987), 5 Lady Byng Trophies for sportsmanship, and a high standard of gentlemanly play, 2 Conn Smythe Trophies as the playoffs’ MVP, and 5 Lester B. Pearson Awards as the League’s outstanding player as judged by his peers. He won 3 All-Star Game MVP awards, tied for most ever. His jersey number, 99, was retired by all NHL teams.


He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 22, 1999, bypassing the 3-year waiting period. His daily “journal” was syndicated throughout Canada’s newspapers detailing his thoughts and feelings about his induction as the day neared.


“The Royal Wedding”


He met American actress Janet Jones in 1984 when he was a judge on the show “Dance Fever” and she was a dancer, but they didn’t begin dating until 1987. Their July 17, 1988 nuptials at St. Joseph’s Basilica in Edmonton was dubbed “The Royal Wedding” by the press and broadcast live throughout Canada. “Guards” from the Edmonton Fire Department stood on the church steps. The event reportedly cost Gretzky over $1,000,000; Janet’s dress alone cost $40,000. They have 5 children: Paulina (born that December), Ty, Trevor, Tristan, and Emma.


Winter Olympics


Gretzky was Executive Director of the Canadian men’s hockey team at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. On February 18, he lashed out at the media, officials, and just about everyone else at a press conference, blaming the team’s 1-1-1 start on “American propaganda.” Defenders said he was merely borrowing a page from former coach Glen Sather to take the pressure off his players. Canada beat the U.S. to win the gold medal 50 years to the day after the Edmonton Waterloo Mercurys won the nation’s last gold. Wayne was also part of the team in Nagano as a player in 1998. That team failed to bring home a medal when they lost to Finland for the Bronze.


Off the Ice


While in Edmonton, he endorsed everything from soft drinks and blue jeans to his own wallpaper, pillow cases, breakfast cereal, chocolate bars, and a Mattel “Great Gretzky” doll. Past and present plugs include Thrifty Car Rental, Peak Antifreeze, Ford Motor Company (in Canada only), Coca-Cola, Esso, McDonald’s, Campbell’s Soup, Primestar TV, Upper Deck, Nike, Ultra Wheels, Hallmark Cards, Zurich Insurance, and Canadian Imperial Bank. He and his son Ty did commercials for the Sharp Viewcam. He hosted Saturday Night Live in 1989. He lent his likeness to a 1992 cartoon show, Pro-Stars, and a 1996 video game. He posed for the cover of Cigar Aficionado Magazine with Janet. In 1998, he launched a line of fashion menswear, and signed a licensing agreement with a phone card company. He owns a restaurant, Hespeler sports equipment, and co-owns a chain of roller-hockey rinks. After his retirement, he became the spokesman for Bud Light, Power Automotive Group of Southern California, and Tylenol Arthritis Formula. Forbes estimates that Gretzky earned $93.8 million from hockey and endorsements from 1990-98.


In 2000, he became Alternate Governor and Managing Partner of the Phoenix Coyotes NHL team. Gretzky owns 17% of the team. In 2004 he was voted one of the Ten greatest Canadians in a CBC poll.