Wayne Gretzky Turns 50: Could Have Scored 100

January 26th, 2011 No Comments

Great players always strive for more. Recently asked about the greatest goal scoring season in NHL history in which he lit the lamp a total of 92 times, Gretzky lamented that the “disappointing” part about that season (1985-1986) was the fact that “the great one” only scored one goal in his final eight games.

Most players would have been happy with a 92 goal season, Gretzky wanted to hit the century mark.

The “Great One” owns just about every offensive record in NHL history. Most goals (894), assists (1,963), points (2,857), most points in a playoff (47), most career playoff points (252), the list goes on and on.

Often referred to as the greatest player in NHL history, there are still some critic’s out there that try to detract from Gretzky’s achievements by suggesting the lack of defensive play in the 1980’s (in which he spent a good portion of his career), was a key factor in his success.

Gretzky’s innovative play behind the net (often referred to as Gretzky’s “office”), ability to see the entire ice, uncanny ability to find the open man when nobody else could see them and humble nature arguably make him the most respected player in NHL history.

The debate over Gretzky’s final place in NHL history will rage on for decades. Fact is, whether you prefer legendary defenseman Bobby Orr, iconic power forward Gordie Howe or The Great One himself, Gretzky is in every conversation.

Gretzky dominated the game of hockey like few before him. He made players better, and struck fear in the hearts of opposing defensemen and goaltenders, night-in, night-out. More often than not it wasn’t a case of whether or not Gretzky would score, rather how many, that in itself, speaks volumes about just how special Gretzky was.

As good as today’s stars are, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and others, while good, are nowhere near the player Gretzky was.

In contrast, Gretzky’s regular season totals morph anything Crosby and company have accomplished.

Sure, today’s players are bigger, stronger and perhaps even more skilled. Further, today’s emphasis on defense makes it difficult for offensive players to put up big totals, but that doesn’t mean you can take anything away from what Gretzky accomplished.

Fact is, his numbers were scary, and he will always be remembered as the player who put Edmonton on the map.

Following his great success with the Edmonton Oilers the infamous trade to Los Angeles put Gretzky in the position to spearhead the expansion to many of the southern markets we see today.

No question, without Gretzky’s move to Los Angeles there are no NHL teams in San Jose, Anaheim, Carolina or Tampa Bay. Gretzky’s cache and presence allowed the NHL to market him to the Southern markets, leading to tremendous revenue growth and interest from top athletes in non-traditional markets.

One could say Gretzky single handedly is responsible for the growth of the NHL. Where there once were no arenas, we see entire leagues popping up. Where hockey was once an afterthought, the United States is now turning out some of the most impressive hockey talent on the planet—that doesn’t happen without Wayne Gretzky moving to L.A., that doesn’t happen without Gretzky’s cache and accomplishments.

The NHL is forever indebted to Gretzky. He has long been the most recognizable face in hockey and, given his support of the game and tireless work with the NHL and Team Canada both on and off the ice, he remains a key figure, not only in the history books, but in the modern era that is today’s NHL.

Gretzky never felt playing hockey was his right, he always approached his playing time as a privilege. He is a class act, and has set the bar which every NHL player must now strive for.

Happy Birthday Gretz! Here’s to hitting 100…

Until next time,

Peace!

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