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Wayne Gretzky: A Life In Quotes

As a ten-year old at Greenbrier Public School in Brantford: "Gordie Howe is my kind of player. He has so many tricks around the net, no wonder he scored so many goals. I'd like to be just like him."

When Gretzky was 15 and playing with the Toronto Nats in Junior B, he was called up by the Peterborough Petes on November 27, 1976 to play one game. He set up Tim Trimper for the winning goal and was asked after about his impressions of the league: "I liked playing Junior A hockey a lot, and the real big difference is that it is so fast. We play much shorter shifts down in Toronto, and that with the speed made it tiring."

On scoring his first goal in the NHL: "I remember thinking, 'if I never play in the NHL again, at least I scored a goal.'"

On playing in his first Canada Cup in 1981: "All of us on this team must realize that we're playing the next four years in the next month. If we win, then everything will be okay because the Canadian fans expect us to win. But if we lose, we're going to hear a great deal about it for four years, or at least until the next big tournament like this."

Speaking of the New Jersey Devils after his Oilers beat them 13-4, Gretzky said: "It's disappointing. These guys better get their acts together. They had better start getting better personnel and start putting them on ice. It's ruining hockey. They are putting a Mickey Mouse operation on ice."

After the exciting two-game Rendez-vous '87 that replaced the NHL All-Star game: "Let's face it. People want more than two games. And they want more than Christmas tours. And when it comes to the Canada Cup, who really wants to see Canada play West Germany? People don't want to see those other countries. People want to see Canada and Russia. I'd like to see it happen before I retire."

At the press conference announcing his trade from Edmonton to Los Angeles: "For the benefit of Wayne Gretzky, my new wife, and our expected child in the new year, it would be for the benefit of everyone involved to let me play for the Los Angeles Kings."

After his father suffered a brain aneuryism, Gretzky's mind was far from the rink: "This is the end. This is the end of the end. I never, ever dreamed I could play this bad...The whole thing just hit me. It went from bad to worse to the point where I had serious conversations with my wife about my career."

On his favourite building: "If you can't get up for a game at Maple Leaf Gardens, you don't deserve to play hockey."

Announcing his retirement: "Unfortunately, sometimes you go to funerals, and fortunately sometimes you get to go to weddings and fun parties, and to me this is a party. This is a celebration. I hope everyone understands that I look upon these next few days as something to really enjoy...It's obvious that today I have officially retired, and Sunday will be my last game."

Last words of advice after his final game to kids who play hockey: "Do it because you love it. Don't do it because you want to make a lot of money at it. If you do it because you love it, and you do it because you dream of playing in the National Hockey League, then everything else will fall into place."

On visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame and his induction into the Hall: "I would stand there and stare at all the pictures, the sweaters and the hockey sticks. I could never go in there enough. I never thought that one day I'd have the opportunity to be in the Hall of Fame. But dreams, I guess, come true."

Wayne Gretzky: Obscure Trivia

• When Gretzky was traded from Indianapolis to Edmonton in the WHA's 1978-79 season, he wore #25 for his first game as an Oiler.

• Gretzky is the only man to win the NHL All-Star game MVP with three different teams (1983 Edmonton, 1989 Los Angeles, 1999 Rangers)

• Gretzky played ten games on his birthday, January 26, during his NHL career, getting at least a point each game:

Year Opponent G A P
1980 vs. Toronto 0 2 2
1982 vs. St. Louis 1 1 2
1983 vs. Toronto 2 1 3
1985 vs.Pittsburgh 3 1 4
1989 vs. Vancouver 0 1 1
1991 vs. Vancouver 3 2 5
1993 vs. San Jose 0 2 2
1995 vs. St. Louis 1 0 1
1998 vs. Washington 0 1 1
1999 vs. Washington 0 3 3

• Of the more than 5,000 players to make it to the NHL since 1917, 16 others were born on Gretzky's birthday, January 26: Fred Barrett, Daniel Berthiaume, Rod Dallman, Mike Fountain, Ivan Hlinka, Martin Lauder, Vic Lynn, Dean Malkoc, Dale McCourt, Scott McKay, Billy McNeill, Dan Newman, Frank Nighbor, Alf Skinner, Glen Skov, and Mark Taylor.

• Gordie Howe played 13 games on Gretzky's birthday:

Year G A P
1949 0 1 1
1950 1 0 1
1952 1 1 2
1956 1 1 2
1957 0 0 0
1958 0 0 0
1961 1 0 1
1963 0 0 0
1964 1 0 1
1966 0 1 1
1967 0 0 0
1969 2 1 3
1980 0 0 0

• Two players involved in Gretzky trades have yet to play in the NHL. When Gretzky was sent to St. Louis by Los Angeles, the Kings got two draft choices. One was a 5th-rounder in 1996, Peter Hogan, who played last season in the minors. The other was a 1st-round selection in 1997, Matt Zultek. Zultek never signed with the Kings, though, and re-entered the draft in 1999, chosen 56th overall by Boston.

• Gretzky's longest pointless streaks with his four teams:

Team Streak
Edmonton (1979-88) 3 games (twice)
Los Angeles (1988-96) 3 games (4 times)
St. Louis (1996) 2 games
Rangers (1996-99) 4 games

• Gretzky's longest point-scoring streak with his four teams:

Team Streak
Edmonton 51 games
Los Angeles 25 games
St. Louis 4 games
Rangers 15 games

Andrew Podnieks is the author of The Great One: The Life and Times of Wayne Gretzky (Doubleday Canada 1999). All facts and quotes are taken from this source.

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