Gretzky – “The Great One” Still?


Chicago, IL — In professional sports every so often there comes along an athlete that is so special that  their skills transcend even the great ones of their sport. If you are lucky to be on this planet at the same time you can witness their excellence. This does not happen often but when it does the player becomes a legend and is spoken of forever. Jordan, Ruth, Pele and Rice would all fall within this category. In hockey to date there has been one player that definitely achieved this status – Wayne Gretzky or as he has been nicknamed – “The great One” and for good reasons.

Gretzky still holds so many NHL records that it is unreal. His number 99 jersey has been retired from the entire NHL meaning you will never see anyone playing in the NHL ever wearing that number again. Also he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame the moment he retired in 1999 as the league waived the waiting period for him and rightfully so. He played in the NHL for 19 years at the center position. He was a left-handed shot hmmm so much for parents always trying to make kids right-handed. He played for four teams in his career – the Edmonton Oilers, LA Kings, St. Louis Blues and NY Rangers. The majority of his career however was spent in Edmonton and LA.  His career records are as follows: He still “holds or shares 61 NHL records: 40 for the regular season, 15 for the Stanley Cup playoffs and six for the NHL All-Star Games” 1

  • MOST POINTS:
    2,856 (1,485 games, 894 goals, 1,962 assists)
    Second: Mark Messier – 1,855 (1,756 games, 694 goals, 1,193 assists)
  • MOST POINTS, INCLUDING PLAYOFFS:
    3,238 (2,856 regular season and 382 playoff)
    Second: Mark Messier – 2,180 (1,885 regular season and 295 playoff)
  • MOST GOALS:
    894
    Second: Gordie Howe, 801
  • MOST GOALS, INCLUDING PLAYOFFS:
    1,016 (894 regular season and 122 playoff)
    Second: Gordie Howe, 869 (801 regular season and 68 playoff)
  • MOST ASSISTS:
    1,962
    Second: Mark Messier, 1,171
  • MOST ASSISTS, INCLUDING PLAYOFFS:
    2,222 (1,962 regular season and 260 playoff)
    Second: Mark Messier, 1,357 (1,171 regular season and 186 playoff)
  • MOST GOALS BY A CENTER:
    894
    Second: Marcel Dionne, 731
  • MOST ASSISTS BY A CENTER:
    1,962
    Second: Mark Messier, 1,171
  • MOST POINTS BY A CENTER:
    2,856
    Second: Mark Messier, 1,855
  • MOST 40-OR-MORE GOAL SEASONS:
    12
    Second: Marcel Dionne, 10
  • MOST CONSECUTIVE 40-OR-MORE GOAL SEASONS:
    12 (1979-80 to 1990-91)
    Second: Mike Bossy, 9 (1977-78 to 1985-86)
  • MOST 50-OR-MORE GOAL SEASONS:
    9 (tied with Mike Bossy)
    Second: Guy Lafleur, 6
  • MOST 60-OR-MORE GOAL SEASONS:
    5 (tied with Mike Bossy)
    Second: Phil Esposito, 4
  • MOST CONSECUTIVE 60-OR-MORE GOAL SEASONS:
    4 (1981-82 to 1984-85)
    Second: Mike Bossy, 3 (1980-81 to 1982-83)
  • MOST 100-OR-MORE POINT SEASONS:
    15
    Second: Mario Lemieux, 10
  • MOST CONSECUTIVE 100-OR-MORE POINT SEASONS:
    13 (1979-80 to 1991-92)
    Second: Six players tied with 6
  • MOST THREE-OR-MORE GOAL GAMES:
    50 (37 three-goal games; nine four-goal games; four five-goal games)
    Second: Mike Bossy, 39 (30 three-goal games, nine four-goal games)
  • MOST OVERTIME ASSISTS:
    15
    Second: Doug Gilmour, 13
  • HIGHEST ASSISTS-PER-GAME AVERAGE:
    1.321 (1,962 assists in 1,485 games)
    Second: Mario Lemieux, 1.183 (881 assists in 745 games)

These records do not even include what he did in single game records or the countless trophies he won during his career. Gretzky won 9 Hart Trophies – awarded to the player judged most valuable to his team; 5 Lady Byng – awarded to the player demonstrating sportsmanship; 10 Art Ross – regular season scoring leader; 5 Lester B Pearson awarded to the most outstanding player by his peers & 2 Conn Smyth awarded to the MVP in the Stanley Cup playoffs along with 4 Stanley Cups – all with Edmonton Oilers.

Gretzky played in the 80’s and 90’s when the game of hockey was much different from today. That being the case, would Gretzky still be considered great in todays NHL games? Does he stack up among the great players of today and is he still the measuring stick for all forwards to be measured against still? For those who are too young to remember or maybe you were not on this planet yet, to appreciate the accomplishments and how Gretzky forever changed how hockey was viewed particularly in the US you need to compare him to the stars of today to put this into context of how significant what he achieved on NHL ice was.

Since Gretzky played in 1487 games and he was in the league so long if we just take a 5 year sampling of his statistics against Daniel Sedin, Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, Henrik Sedin, Alexander Olvechkin and Ryan Getzlaf.

Player Games played Points
Wayne Gretzky 393 914
Alexander Olvechkin 394 508
Sidney Crosby 331 470
Henrik Sedin 410 448
Daniel Sedin 390 429

Patrick Kane, Ryan Getzlaf and Steven Stamkos do not have a significant enough years played yet but they are on track to be on this list albeit way behind Gretzky. It should also be pointed out that the 5 year period used for all the current NHL players is the last 5 so they are in full form being in the NHL for some time whereas Gretzky’s numbers are for the first 5 years he was in NHL. If you take his highest 5 year totals the numbers are not even fair.

From 1981- 1986 his point total was 1,036 in 394 games played. These numbers are double the current NHL players leaders or if you look at it this way it takes two Alexander Olvechkins to match 1 Gretzky production wise. Ridiculous numbers of Green Giant proportions. Now it can be argued that today’s game is at a much faster pace but then again todays game is definitely advantageous to offensive play and forwards numbers so it is probably a wash.

What made Gretzky the greatest was not his strength or size or vision. It was his hockey intelligence which is something we can all learn from. It was not god given talent but rather his determination and love of the game to study it to such an extent he brought what he studies and executed it on ice. Gretzky while dangerous in front of the net he was equally dangerous behind the net setting up his teammates. In fact his overall career point total is 2,857 of which it is broken down by 894 Goals & 1963 Assists. It is no surprise that the next closest player in total career points was his Oiler teammate Mark Messier with 1887 points. Again Gretzky has almost 1000 points over the next closest player.

It can not be said enough when Wayne Gretzky left the Oilers for the LA Kings he brought the sport of hockey light years ahead in the US by going to the Kings. Every child that plays hockey in California tap your sticks on the ice to him because he made this sport popular in non-traditional hockey markets like California and may very well have saved hockey in America. Now thanks in large part to Gretzky, California has three very good NHL teams in the LA Kings, San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks. The NHL also expanded in non-traditional markets like the American South and West. You can argue these franchises are not doing well but if wasn’t for Gretzky hockey would never have been played in places like Phoenix, Tampa Bay, Carolina or the clubs in CA. He was criticized in his native Canada for leaving the Oilers and was accused of abandoning Canada. Time healed Canada’s wounds and in the big picture he did more for the game of hockey by not only going to a US team but one in a non-traditional hockey market . The NHL can never give back to Gretzky what he gave to the NHL and North American Hockey in general.

Even by todays’ standards and compared to today’s great players Wayne Gretzky is still the greatest hockey player to have ever played the game at any level. It’s hard to imagine that anyone will ever have as much success as he did or break as many records. For those of us who saw Gretzky in the day we were lucky. If we are even luckier we may be able to witness the next Gretzky. Every time I see an Oilers uniform I think of him. Who knows maybe young Ryan Nugent Hopkins will break his records. With all he did for the NHL and hockey  wouldn’t it be fitting if the next  “great one” is currently playing youth hockey in California. What if an American hockey player could finish what Gretzky started and push hockey’s popularity over the top for this great game in the US.  Somehow I think Gretzky would be pleased and the legend would grow even bigger.

1 taken from his website – http://www.gretzky.com/hockey/nhl_records.php

all current player stats were taken from NHL website – http://www.NHL.com

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