The name Wayne Gretzky is synonymous with greatness.
The Brantford, Ontario native, appropriately nicknamed the "Great One," began to re-write the record books when he first stepped onto the ice as an NHL player for the Edmonton Oilers in 1979.
In the 20 years that followed, he built a strong case to be considered as the greatest athlete of the 20th century, ahead of legends such as Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth and Jim Brown.
As we take a moment to remember that today (August 9) is the 25th anniversary of the trade that sent Gretzky from Edmonton to Los Angeles, let's look at 10 incredible facts from his spectacular career.
In Canada, young kids often put on their first pair of skates at a very early age. Gretzky became one of those kids when he began skating at the age of two.
It didn't take long for the Great One to develop his skills on the ice. In his final year of Pee Wee hockey, he scored an astounding 378 goals despite his lack of size and strength at the time. This goal scoring total is still a record for that age level and probably will never be broken.
When people think of the teams Gretzky played on, the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers are usually the first ones that come to mind.
But the first professional team that No. 99 played for was the Indianapolis Racers of the Western Hockey Association (WHA). He joined the club in 1978 at the young age of 17.
Less than a month after arriving in Indianapolis, Gretzky was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers, the team he would make his NHL debut with when the WHA merged with the NHL in 1979.
This fact is quite interesting. How could a player who some believe to be the best of all-time get traded three times in his professional career?
Well, sports is a business, and sometimes money becomes more of a factor than what happens on the ice. When Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in a shocking trade in 1988, then-Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington needed money to support his other businesses that were not doing well financially.
Even though multiple players and draft picks were involved in the final deal between the Oilers and Kings, the centerpiece of the package going to Edmonton was $15 million in U.S. currency.
After spending seven-plus seasons in Los Angeles, Gretzky was traded during the 1995-96 season to the St. Louis Blues. The Kings were no longer legitimate Stanley Cup contenders and trading the Great One was a way for L.A. to acquire assets for the future.
It proved to be a rental deal for the Blues because No. 99 would sign a free-agent contract with the New York Rangers that summer.
Complete List of Gretzky Trades
- Traded from Indianapolis Racers to Edmonton Oilers in 1978 (WHA)
- Traded from Edmonton Oilers to Los Angeles Kings in 1988
- Traded from Los Angeles Kings to St. Louis Blues in 1996
Another record Gretzky set that isn't likely to be broken is his eight straight Hart Trophies. In his first NHL season (1979-80), a young Gretzky scored 51 goals and added 86 assists to capture the first most valuable player award of his career.
After capturing his eighth Hart Trophy in 1987, Gretzky would win a ninth award after his first season with the Los Angeles Kings (1988-89), which is also a record.
The only players to win consecutive Hart Trophies after Gretzky's run of eight straight are Dominik Hasek (1997 and 1998) and Alexander Ovechkin (2008 and 2009).
Wayne Gretzky holds the NHL record with 2,857 career points, which is 970 more than former teammate Mark Messier, who ranks second.
That means that even if Gretzky never scored any of his 894 goals (also an NHL record), he would still be the league's all-time leading scorer with 1,963 assists.
This is a great example of why Gretzky is without question the best offensive player that hockey has, and will ever see.
Gretzky became the first player to score 50 goals in less than 50 games when he accomplished the feat in only 39 games during the 1981-82 season.
Not only did he break Mike Bossy and Maurice Richard's record of 50 goals in 50 games, he did it in style by finding the back of the net five times in the 39th game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The closest any player has come to breaking this record is Boston Bruins forward Cam Neely's 50 goals in 44 games during the 1993-94 season.
Wayne Gretzky set an NHL record with 212 points scored during the 1981-82 season. It was the first time that any player had reached the 200-point mark, which Gretzky would do three more times in the next four years.
The most impressive part of his scoring success is the fact that Gretzky tallied all these points during an era when clutching, grabbing and the red line were all part of the game. If the Great One played with today's rules, which help increase scoring, it wouldn't be crazy to think that the 300-point mark could be attainable for him.
Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux has come the closest to joining Gretzky in the 200-point club. He fell just one point short in 1989.
There are several records in sports that fall under the category of "most unbreakable." They are accomplishments likely to stand the test of time.
One of the most famous examples is former New York Yankees star Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak set in 1941. If there's an NHL record that can compare to DiMaggio's remarkable hit streak, it's Gretzky's 92 goals scored during the 1981-82 season at 21 years old.
Two players have come close to breaking this record. St. Louis Blues winger Brett Hull scored 86 in 1990-91 and Mario Lemieux notched 85 in 1988-89. But after Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny both reached the 70-goal mark in 1992-93, no player has scored more than 65 over the last 20 years.
If there's one player with any sort of chance to challenge this amazing record, it's Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos. He's scored 51, 45 and 60 goals in his last three non-lockout seasons and is approaching the prime of his career at age 23.
Wayne Gretzky is the only player in NHL history to captain four different teams. Even though he played two decades in the NHL and served in a captain's role for most of his career, No. 99 only lifted the Stanley Cup with one of these clubs.
After hoisting hockey's Holy Grail with the Edmonton Oilers for the fourth time in 1988, Gretzky became the captain of the Kings when he was traded to Hollywood in 1988.
When the St. Louis Blues acquired him in 1996, he quickly became the team's captain before his first game with the club. Gretzky was captain of the Rangers briefly when Mark Messier was suspended in 1996-97, but he was never the full-time captain of the Blueshirts during the three seasons he played at Madison Square Garden.
Gretzky finished his career with 61 NHL records, a number which has decreased to 60 in the years following his retirement in 1999.
Here's a breakdown of the records he owns:
- 40 Regular Seasons
- 15 Playoffs
- 5 All-Star Games
Here are some notable records he holds or shares:
- Most goals all-time (894) and in a season (92)
- Most points all-time (2,857) and in a season (215)
- Most assists all-time (1,963) and in a season (163)
- Most 50-plus goal seasons (9, tied with New York Islanders legend Mike Bossy)
- Most hat tricks in regular season (50)
- Most career playoff goals (122) and assists (260)
- Most career playoff game-winning goals (24, tied with Brett Hull)
Gretzky has one of the most impressive resumes of any athlete in the history of North American pro sports. But is he the best NHL player ever? Does that honor belong to Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe or Mario Lemieux? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Final, as well as the 2013 NHL draft.