Hockey legend regarded by many as the greatest hockey player of all-time. Nicknamed "The Great One". Retired in 1999, holding dozens of league records. Symbolic of how important Gretzky was to the NHL, in 2000 the league retired his uniform number 99.

Gretzky (DOB: 1/26/1961; Brantford, Ontario, Canada) started his professional career as a member of the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association in 1978, at the age of 17 (at that time, the WHA was an upstart professional league trying to battle the NHL). Just 8 games into the season, the Racers sold Gretzky and several other players to the Edmonton Oilers.

That season, Gretzky scored 46 goals and 64 assists for 110 points, winning the 1978-1979 WHA Rookie of the Year award.

The WHA folded after the season and the Oilers (along with 3 other teams) became part of the NHL. In his first NHL season, 1979-1980, Gretzky tallied 51 goals and 86 assists for 137 points, winning his first Hart Trophy, as league MVP. "Gretz" also compiled a mere 21 penalty minutes, leading him to earn the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, as the league's "most gentlemanly" player.

For the next 8 seasons, as a member of the Oilers, Gretzky obliterated many league scoring records. In 1981-1982, Gretz scored a record (and career high) 92 goals. In 1985-1986, The Great One recorded career highs (and league records) in assists (163) and points (215).

In Edmonton, Gretzky won 8 straight Hart Trophies (1980-1987). He also won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer 7 staight years (1981-1987).

Perhaps more importantly than the individual accomplishments, Gretzky and Mark Messier helped the Oilers became an NHL dynasty winning 4 Stanley Cups in 5 years (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988). Gretzky won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP in 1985 and 1988.

Despite their success, the Oilers were in financial trouble and this led to the unthinkable: Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings before the 1988-1989 season.

Gretz picked up where he left off, winning the 1989 Hart Trophy (his 9th, and final one) and winning the Art Ross Trophy (scoring titles) in 1990, 1991, and 1994 (for a total of 10). His trophy cabinet also included 3 more Lady Byngs for gentlemanly play in 1991, 1992, and 1994 (for a total of 4).

However, the Kings were unable to have the same success that the Oilers achieved. They reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993 (losing to Montreal in 5 games), but otherwise had limited success.

Midway through the 1995-1996 season, Gretzky was dealt to the St. Louis Blues, in an attempt to win another Stanley Cup. However, the Blues were eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals by Detroit.

The fourth, and final, stop of Gretzky's playing career was as a member of the New York Rangers, with whom Gretz signed as a free agent in 1996. Despite being reunited with longtime friend Messier, the aging Rangers only made the playoffs once in Gretz's 3 seasons in New York. The Great One added a 5th Lady Byng Trophy in 1999, which is the same year he retired from the NHL at the age of 38.

His NHL regular season career totals (NOT including his one season in the WHA) of 894 goals, 1963 assists, and 2857 points are all league records. At the time of his retirement, he also held dozens of other records, in the regular season, postseason, and All-Star Games (Gretzky played in 18 All Star Games, winning the game MVP honors in 1983, 1989, and 1999).

In November 1999, Gretzky was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, in Toronto. (The mandatory 3-year waiting period was waived).

Also in 1999, ESPN's SportsCentury selected Gretzky as #5 on their list of the 100 greatest North American athletes of the 20th century.

Gretzky wasn't out of the hockey world for long. In 2000, he was part of a group which bought ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes. The Great One is currently Managing Partner in Charge of Hockey Operations (according to the Coyotes' website).

For the last 2 decades, Wayne Gretzky has been synonymous with hockey. Beyond being arguably the greatest player in hockey history, Gretz can be credited with popularizing hockey in Southern California, and to a great extent, worldwide. His name value is similar to Babe Ruth and baseball. The nickname "The Great One" truly represents Gretzky well.

Information pieced together from a myriad of Gretzky websites on the net and a myriad of hours watching The Great One at work throughout my childhood and beyond.

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