August 21, 2002
Wayne Gretzky(info about Michael Jordan)
The passion of hockey
The marvel of marvels – Creative genius, virtuoso of the miraculous pass and proven goalscorer, he is the uncontested master of hockey.
Passion of hockey
With all the enthusiasm and the creativity of the perfect hockey player, Wayne Gretzky dazzled all the fans of the world. His prowess in the opponent's zone gave to all supporters of the 99 sweater great delights. He amazed the public with his millimeter passes and his staggering goals as much as he astounded his fellow contemporary players.
At his arrival in the NHL in 1979, this tall and slim center immediately demonstrated his unrivalled talent on the North American ice rinks. Gretzky reached in his first year the plateau of 50 goals. He is the youngest player who has achieved this exploit. He finished the season with an awesome chart: 51 goals and 86 assists. His 137 points put him in a dead heat with the great Marcel Dionne (53 goals and 84 assists). However, Dionne won the scoring championship because he scored more goals. In spite of the fact that Gretzky did not win the Art Ross Trophy (player who leads the league in scoring) or the Calder Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year (he was not eligible), he still won a great honor by getting the Hart Trophy reserved to the league's most valuable player. The best part is that Gretzky was only 18 years old! Full of promise for the coming years.
The captain of the Oilers had physical abilities that surpass widely the common average. Skilful with the stick, he was able to maneuver easily with the puck. Fast and agile on his skates, he was able to create space for himself in order to see the game better. It is exactly with these abilities that he had a step ahead of the other guys. Gretzky had a lithe build with a matchless will. He did not have the physiognomy of the typical hockey player, which is centered on physical power. Therefore, he had to use his unique qualities in order to be at the top on the ice rink.
Like the matador who deceives the ferocious bull by a precise movement of the red cape, Gretzky got around the opponents either by a skilful gesture or by an accurate pass to a teammate. His movements transcended ease. He succeeded to be the best player on ice because of his talent, but also with his intelligence and his unequalled comprehension of the game.
Indeed, Gretzky understood the fundamental essence of the game. With his technical qualities of hockey and his comprehension almost supernatural, he always knew what to do. Even under the toughest opponent's pressure, he was calm. Whatever the situation, he knew if he should pass, shoot or keep the puck a little bit longer. One thing is sure, he was a split second ahead of every other player.
With his unequalled comprehension of the game, a proven handling of the stick and exceptional peripheral vision, Gretzky was an outstanding passer who could easily find an open man. His 1,962 passes during the regular season prove without a doubt his passing abilities. In a situation of two against one, 99 was pitiless. His passes floated just above the stick of defensemen and finished their way onto the stick of one of his teammates. Jari Kurri, Marc Messier, Glenn Anderson and of course Bernie Nicholls have surely thanked many times the Almighty for the arrival of Gretzky to their team.
The Gretzky frenzy reached a culminating point when the media assigned to him as his office the back of the opponent's net! Gretzky has stated clearly that it is advantageous to create plays from the zone at the back of the net. "You've got the whole play in front of you and with the defensemen's and goalie's backs to you". Indeed, he fed with profusion his teammates from that point. The opposing players were all confused between the fact that they had to keep an eye on their player and that Gretzky was enjoying himself behind the net. The Gretzky passes were so precise that his teammates had only to push the puck into the goal. When he was behind the opponent's net with the puck, the palpitations of the fans increased, because everybody knew that a spectacular play was imminent.
The marvelous 99 was not only a great passer, he was an awesome goalscorer. He touched the bottom of the net so often that it would take at least five hours to view all of his goals. During twelve seasons, he managed to score more than forty goals. Gretzky excelled at this level, because he was fast, was a good stick handler, had an extraordinary sense of anticipation and an accurate slap shot. How many times has he entered into the opponent's zone at full speed and made a well aimed shot? Mike Liut, Patrick Roy, Billy Smith and many other goalkeepers remember it surely. For that matter, the result is terrifying: 894 goals during the regular season.
However, his great asset, the passion of the game, surpasses by far his hockey abilities. Gretzky had always the fire for hockey and he has demonstrated it. He has given all his heart to the game that passions him. Younger, he said that he liked to skate, to play and to joke around with his teammates in the locker room. All fans and knowledgeable people of hockey who have seen Wayne Gretzky at work would note his infatuation for this sport. His passion paired with his abilities and his comprehension of the game made him the most prolific player of hockey's history.
He has marked the book of records with a red hot iron by modifying many of them. Among the most impressive ones, the 215 points in a season with the Edmonton Oilers (1985-86) is an incredible achievement. "I think 163 assists in a season will be hard to beat. That and 215 points in a season", said Gretzky apropos of his two records. He has also been able to accumulate more than 200 points during four different seasons. The only other player who came close to this mythical mark is Mario Lemieux, also a legend of hockey (199 points with Pittsburgh in 1988-89). Whereas a third player (Steve Yzerman, 155 points with Detroit in 1988-89) is at the skyline of Gretzky's performance.
We must not forget the record of the fastest 50 goals that he scored in only 39 games at the start of the season. He pushed Maurice Richard and Mike Bossy out of the picture with their 50 goals in 50 games. Moreover, we must remember his series of 51 games with at least one point per match. According to him, this mark will hold a long time. Of course! Gretzky has established more than sixty records which are still standing. Many of them will hold for quite a while such as the 92 goals in one season.
With the Edmonton Oilers, Wayne and his teammates have won the Stanley Cup four times (1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988). The Oilers team of the 80's could take rivals' breath away. We could find in that formation the goalscorer Jari Kurri, the tough and talented Marc Messier, the speedy Glenn Anderson, the defenseman with offensive skills Paul Coffey and the solid goalie Grant Fuhr. Unequivocally, all of these players are NHL stars. Many of them will be elected some day to the Hall of Fame. Nevertheless, the presence of Gretzky in the Oilers lineup permitted all of these players with great qualities to have more space on the ice and to be more creative. In brief, the dynasty of the Edmonton Oilers has been a true festival of goals. The fans were delighted to see the show.
Without a doubt Wayne Gretzky reached the culminating point of his career with the Oilers. He played nine years for Edmonton with all the youthful enthusiasm and with a team stuffed with talented players.
Trade to Los Angeles
The Gretzky trade in 1988 plunged everybody into a cold bath. The Oilers traded their legend principally for a mountain of dollars (15 million of American dollars). This big amount of cash was supposed to help the owner of the team, Peter Pocklington, to absorb his debt. In return for Gretzky, McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski, the Oilers obtained, besides the money, the talented center Jimmy Carson, Martin Gélinas and three draft picks. The bottom fact is that Wayne left the ship grudgingly. The same one which always led him to the right harbor.
Wayne Gretzky had to start over again with the Los Angeles Kings, a team in reconstruction. With his new team, he still excelled. He won three more times the scoring championship (1990, 1991 and 1994). Like all the great ones, Gretzky has helped his teammates to give the best of themselves. Indeed, the Kings reached the Stanley Cup finals in 1993, but they lost against the surprising Montreal Canadians.
At the international level, Gretzky has done a lot. With the Canadian team, he has won the Canada Cup three times (1984, 1987 and 1991). In 1987, the fans had the extreme pleasure to see, side by side, Gretzky and Lemieux. An explosive duo which permitted the team to defeat the powerful Red Army (USSR). Recently, Gretzky as the general director of the Canadian team led his formation to win the gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.
In résumé, all his realizations on the ice place him at the top of the best players. Moreover, a committee of fifty experts which was formed by the "The Hockey News" magazine voted Gretzky to the first rank of the best players who ever played the game. He preceded the legendary Bobby Orr, the tough Gordie Howe, the magnificent Mario Lemieux and all the other superstars of the National Hockey League. If we take a moment to compare him to the other sport legends, Wayne Gretzky is among the greatest such as Muhammad Ali, Pele and Michael Jordan. Indeed, Wayne Gretzky mastered his sport, and for us, it's always a pleasure to see him play on video tape wearing the uniform of the Edmonton Oilers. The 99 sweater makes us dream with his inspiring passion.
© United Athletes Magazine