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WAYNE GRETZKY Hockey's Greatest Player by Kaya Morgan

There are great athletes that emerge in every sport. With hockey now gaining in popularity throughout the world, even those of us that have not previously followed the sport can't help but become aware of some of the top teams and legendary players. Firmly positioning itself in the eyes of its fans as a game of artistry and quickness, as well as strength and physical aggression, there is not a more famous player, or one who has been more synonymous with the sport than Wayne Gretzky.

Clearly an athlete that was born to play hockey, Gretzky began skating at the tender age of 2 on the Nith River, just below his grandparents farm outside Toronto. The eldest of five children, as with many Canadian kids, he grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada on television, and spent every possible moment playing the game. Soon the family backyard ice rink became the molding ground for a true hockey superstar.

Dad, Walter, knew by an early age that his son had a special talent. By age 6, the young Gretzky began playing organized hockey — two years before he was technically eligible to play. The odds of any kid making it in the sport were pretty incredible. With roughly 200,000 kids playing in the Metropolitan Toronto area alone, the average number of graduates to the NHL each year was only one. Yet, by age ten, Gretzky had gradually developed from 1 goal in his minor hockey rookie year, to as high as 196 goals with 76 assists in the 1970-71 season.

Over the course of his career, Gretzky has set countless records — well over 60 at last count. He is the all-time scoring leader in the NHL, named MVP (Most Valuable Player) nine times, led the Edmonton Oilers to four Stanley Cups in five years, holds the most scoring titles, is a two-time playoff MVP, has made over 20 All-Star appearances, was chosen "Most Sportsmanlike Player" 5 times — the list just goes on and on.

His fame is truly global, with his legend firmly planted in sport's history. He has hosted NBC's Saturday Night Live, been on the cover of countless magazines, appeared in countless commercials, and has even had a freeway named after him. Of course, when you have the unique distinction of being the only player in the history of the NHL to have your number retired by all member clubs, you know you've made an impact.

Always maintaining a wholesome, family-oriented image that he keeps with him today, Wayne has become a tremendous spokesperson for all sorts of causes like the Ronald McDonald House in Canada, and products such as Ford and Bud Light. Once he put down the hockey stick and made the move to Los Angeles, he could have gone completely "Hollywood," starring or financing movies. Yet, he quietly went out making sound business investments such as opening a restaurant near the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, creating his own clothing line, hosting an annual hockey Fantasy Camp, executive director of Team Canada for the Winter Olympics, and now as managing partner in charge of all hockey operations of the Phoenix Coyotes.

For almost two decades, the ethereal Wayne Gretzky lifted the game of hockey to new and dizzying heights while establishing himself as the greatest player of all time. He transcended hockey as the most statistically dominant player in the history of North American team sports. Even prior to his retirement a committee of 50 hockey experts made up of former NHL players, past and present writers, broadcasters, coaches and hockey executives ranked Gretzky #1 of the 50th greatest players in NHL history. The final season of his playing career saw Gretzky build his grand totals to 894 goals and 1,963 assists for 2,857 points in 1,487 career games, capping a lifetime of thrills and achievement.

As an athlete who ranks alongside basketball's Michael Jordan or soccer's Pele, and one of the greatest offensive forces in the history of any sport, Gretzky will, undoubtedly, be mentioned in the same breath as Muhammad Ali as one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. He resides in Southern California with his wife Janet and their four children.

You can find more information on Wayne Gretzky at

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