Today in sports history, April 16th, 1999, legendary hockey player Wayne Gretzky announced his retirement from the game. Known fittingly as “The Great One”, Gretzky is easily recognized as the greatest hockey player of all time.
Starting his NHL career at the Edmonton Oilers, he brought the team four Stanley Cup championships in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988. After winning his final championship, Gretzky took part in a huge trade with the Los Angeles Kings known colloquially as “The Trade.” The trade was historic and criticized. Canadians felt the Great One was a traitor with some even demanding the government to block it. After being traded, Gretzky never managed to hoist another Stanley Cup. However, he brought his teams to the playoffs a large number of times and took the Kings to the finals, where they lost four games to one after three consecutive overtime losses. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues and then the New York Rangers where he ended his career.
The fact that Wayne Gretzky is considered the greatest player to ever touch the ice is not controversial. While other sports have disputed greatest players or ones that are still on the same plane of numbers with fellow competition, Gretzky simply blows all other players out of the water. He is the leading point-scorer in the NHL, with 2,857 career points in the NHL, with more assists (1963) than the goals of any other player. As the only player to ever have over 200 points in a single season, Gretzky managed the amazing feat four times during his career. Gretzky’s massive skill over his competition and fellow players was not only significant for the era, but continues to this day. Holding 61 NHL records when he retired, he still holds 60.
Gretzky was almost immediately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 22, 1999, as well as the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2000. In addition to this, the league decided to retire his number, 99, league-wide at the 2000 NHL All-Star Game. After retiring, he became the head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes from 2005 to 2009, with a final coaching record of 143-161-24. With his stats, skills, and significance to the game of hockey, he will always be known as “The Great One.”