In the history of the game, no one was better at creating scoring chances and goals than Wayne Gretzky. And really, it is not even close. Wayne Gretzky’s ability to think the game, send the puck to isolated places where the shooter had daylight and an angle was breathtaking.

When Wayne Gretzky was  6 years old, his father built a rink in the family’s backyard. On that lonely sheet of ice, the young Gretzky honed his skills and worked for many hours on becoming a better hockey player. He became so good at it, playing against kids his own age was deemed unfair. At six.

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Wayne Gretzky became famous as a child for extraordinary feats of goal scoring. He began playing against older boys–at six he played against 10 year olds and scored just one goal–but he quickly became the best player even against much older competition. The phenom scored 378 goals at the Pee Wee level in Brantford. He became known as “the White Tornado” and each season of hockey saw him step up a level of competition and then beat it down as though it were a walk in the park.

From the age of 6, Wayne Gretzky of the Brantford Steelers had the following goal totals in the Ontario Minor Hockey Association:

  • Age 6: 1
  • Age 7: 27
  • Age 8 104
  • Age 9: 196
  • Age 10: 378 (in 85gp)

By 1975, Wayne Gretzky had moved to Toronto (played for the Nationals of the legendary Metro Toronto Junior “B” League) and scored 60 points in 28 games. In 1977-78, a decade after he began gaining fame, the teenager skated onto OHA (modern OHL) ice as a regular to show the boys what he could do.

He was 16. In his one full season in the OHA, Wayne Gretzky scored (regular season and playoffs) 76gp, 76-132-208. He finished 2nd in scoring that season, to 19-year old Bobby Smith (he turned 20 in February of that year).

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At this point in NHL history, Wayne Gretzky would be three years from being draft eligible. Although his talent and drive clearly screamed higher levels, the rules of the game at that time meant NHL teams could not find a way to retain his talents and for Wayne Gretzky to turn pro.


Gretzky at that point was too good for junior (or at least it looked like we would be) and the youngster also had an urge to play at the highest possible level despite his youth. The NHL approached the issue as “the rules are rules”, but the outlaw World Hockey Association had been flirting with the idea of drafting underage players for at least a year–in fact, they had drafted Ken Lineseman as an underager in 1977.

Its important to understand the climate at this time (this is spring 1978). The player has expressed interest in signing a pro contract–perhaps in Europe–in order to further push his skills. The WHA made overtures in the spring, and in April 1978 Gretzky’s agent (Gus Badali) was quoted as saying the young man would forego the final three years of his junior eligibility and sign with the fledgling league  should he be drafted. THIS brought forward more hell than a little bit:

  • Iona Campagnolo, federal minister of fitness and amateur sport meets with Ben Hatskin, CEO of the WHA in May and tells him the federal government would object to any signings of underage players. Campagnolo: “Mr Hatskin indicated to me that the league has no intention of signing underage players. However, he also said member clubs may have other ideas.”

On June 12, 1978, Nelson Skalbania of the Indianapolis Racers announced that he had signed Wayne Gretzky to a 7-year, $1.75M personal services contract. The gifted youngster had slipped through the fingers of the OHA, and the NHL. This began a long series of idiotic quotes from respected hockey men about Gretzky’s ability–altough offsetting this was Jim McAuley, the owner of the Sault Ste Marie club–who said his first thought was to shut down the club (hyperbole and overreaction became commonplace during this period).

Del Wilson–long the Montreal Canadiens scouting director and an exceptional judge of NHL talent, was quoted as saying “this is a complete disaster. He’s a great hockey player, but he’s not ready for the pro’s. He’ll be playing against guys 30 years and older.” This was followed by other extraordinary claims, like the whopper that got a lot of play during this time suggesting the young Gretzky didn’t have enough talent to make the 1950 Maple Leafs (don’t ask me, there was some weird stuff going on about Gretzky before he flattened the NHL in 79-80).

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Nelson Skalbania sold Wayne Gretzky on a Thursday (Nov. 2, 1978–34 years ago today) and was the first of two men who should have known better. Gretzky, whose motivation was to play hockey at the highest possible level, expressed frustration at the move:

Once Gretzky arrived in Edmonton, it didn’t take long for a bond to form between  player and his new city. Gretzky got off the plane as an impact player, and in his first season in Edmonton (and the final WHA season) #99 posted 72, 43-61-104 totals. That single WHA season gets overlooked a lot, but it was very important in establishing Gretzky as a player who could compete at that level. Gretzky himself wasn’t sure–he told his agent Gus Badali that he’d score 20 goals and 40 assists–and probably gave him the confidence to enter the NHL in 1979-80 confident of success.

On January 28, 1979, Wayne Gretzky signed a 21-year contract with Peter Pocklington.


From fall 1979 through his departure from Edmonton (Peter Pocklington, the second man who should have known better, sold his contract to Los Angeles), Wayne Gretzky provided Edmonton and Oiler fans with the highest “peak value” of any player in NHL history. There are no words strong enough to describe the dominance: he was so far beyond what had come before it took years to adjust to the point totals. Even today, Gretzky’s peak seasons look like some kind of fantasy, some impossible misprint in the book of hockey’s past.

Gretzky’s most effective skill was his ability to see the ice, the players and their position and to find the best option for scoring chances. When I was a young man, I’d go to Oilers games with buddies or my wife and watch from the bleeders. Some think it’s a horrible place to watch the game but for me it was an education in the talent and vision of Wayne Gretzky. I’ve said this before, but the beauty of his game was knowing where the open spaces were and who could get there. Many of his passes looked seeing-eye or lucky, but he had a sixth sense and would send the puck to places where Kurri or some other player was heading. Walter Gretzky has spoken many times on this subject and that ability made defending #99 impossible on many shifts.

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The gift of Gretzky was that all of his efforts were dedicated to finding the best offensive opportunities that ran counter to the coverage rules of the game.

He was a beauty and it was a privilege to watch him play. I absolutely hate it when old guys (like me) say things like “we’ll never see his equal” but in this case it fits. The Great One? That doesn’t begin to tell the story.


Regular Season Records

  1. Most goals: 894 in 1,487 games
  2. Most goals, including playoffs: 1,016 in 1,487 regular season and 208 playoff games
  3. Most goals, one season: 92 in 1981–82, 80-game schedule
  4. Most goals, one season, including playoffs: 100 in 1983–84, 87 goals in 74 regular season games and 13 goals in 19 playoff games
  5. Most goals, 50 games from start of season: 61 in 1981–82 (October 7, 1981 to January 22, 1982, 80-game schedule) and 1983–84 (October 5, 1983 to January 25, 1984), 80-game schedule
  6. Most goals, one period: 4 (Tied with 10 other players) February 18, 1981
  7. Most assists: 1,963
  8. Most assists, including playoffs: 2,223
  9. Most assists, one season: 163 in 1985–86, 80-game schedule
  10. Most assists, one season, including playoffs: 174 in 1985–86, 163 assists in 80 regular season games and 11 assists in 10 playoff games
  11. Most assists, one game: 7 (tied with Billy “The Kid” Taylor) on three occasions—February 15, 1980; December 11, 1985; February 14, 1986
  12. Most assists, one road game: 7 (tied with Billy Taylor) December 11, 1985
  13. Most points: 2,857 in 1,487 games (894 goals, 1,963 assists)
  14. Most points, including playoffs: 3,239 in 1,487 regular season and 208 playoff games. (1016 goals, 2223 assists)
  15. Most points, one season: 215 in 1985–86, 80-game schedule (52 goals, 163 assists)
  16. Most points, one season, including playoffs: 255 in 1984–85; 208 points in 80 regular season games and 47 points in 18 playoff games
  17. Most overtime assists, career: 15
  18. Most goals by a center, career: 894
  19. Most goals by a center, one season: 92 in 1981–82, 80-game schedule
  20. Most assists by a center, career: 1,963
  21. Most assists by a center, one season: 163 in 1985–86, 80-game schedule
  22. Most points by a center, career: 2,857
  23. Most points by a center, one season: 215 in 1985–86, 80-game schedule
  24. Most assists in one game by a player in his first season: 7 on February 15, 1980
  25. Highest goals-per-game average, one season: 1.18 in 1983–84, 87 goals in 74 games
  26. Highest assists-per-game average, career (300 min.): 1.321 — 1,963 assists in 1,487 games
  27. Highest assists-per-game average, one season: 2.04 in 1985–86, 163 assists in 80 games
  28. Highest points-per-game average, one season (among players with 50-or-more points): 2.77 in 1983–84, 205 points in 74 games
  29. Most 40-or-more goal seasons: 12 in 20 seasons
  30. Most consecutive 40-or-more goal seasons: 12 from 1979–80 to 1990–91
  31. Most 50-or-more goal seasons: 9 (tied with Mike Bossy)
  32. Most 60-or-more goal seasons: 5 (tied with Mike Bossy)
  33. Most consecutive 60-or-more goals seasons: 4 from 1981–82 to 1984–85
  34. Most 100-or-more point seasons: 15
  35. Most consecutive 100-or-more point seasons: 13 from 1979–80 to 1991–92
  36. Most three-or-more goal games, career: 50 — 37 three-goal (hat trick) games; nine four-goal games; four five-goal games
  37. Most three goal games, one season: 10 (done twice) in 1981–82 and 1983–84
  38. Longest consecutive assist scoring streak: 23 games in 1990–91, 48 assists
  39. Longest consecutive point-scoring streak: 51 Games in 1983–84 (October 5, 1983 to January 28, 1984, 61 goals, 92 assists for 153 points)
  40. Longest consecutive point-scoring streak from start of season: 51 in 1983–84; 61 goals, 92 assists for 153 points (October 5, 1983 to January 28, 1984)

Playoff Records

  1. Most playoff goals, career: 122
  2. Most playoff assists, career: 260
  3. Most assists, one playoff year: 31 in 1988 (19 games)
  4. Most assists in one series (other than final): 14 (tied with Rick Middleton) in 1985 Conference Finals (six games vs. Chicago)
  5. Most assists in final series: 10 in 1988 (four games, plus suspended game vs. Boston)
  6. Most assists, one playoff game: 6 (tied with Mikko Leinonen) on April 9, 1987
  7. Most assists, one playoff period: 3 — Three assists by one player in one period of a playoff game has been recorded on 70 occasions, five of them by Gretzky
  8. Most points, career: 382 — 122 goals and 260 assists
  9. Most points, one playoff year: 47 in 1985 (17 goals and 30 assists in 18 games)
  10. Most points in final series: 13 in 1988 three goals and 10 assists (four games plus suspended game vs. Boston, three goals)
  11. Most points, one playoff period: 4 (tied with nine other players)
  12. Most short-handed goals, one playoff year: 3 (tied with five other players) 1983
  13. Most short-handed goals, one playoff game: 2 (tied with eight other players) April 6, 1983
  14. Most game-winning goals in playoffs, career: 24 (tied with Brett Hull)

(courtesy Wikipedia)

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It was a sale. If someone calls it a trade, slap them.

August 9, 1988: Oilers trade Wayne Gretzky, Mike Krushelnyski and Marty McSorley to Los Angeles for cash, Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas and 3 first round picks (1989, 1991, 1993).


His style was unique and almost impenetrable. The area behind the opposition goal was dubbed “Gretzky’s office” because it was from there that he made so many perfect passes for goals. He was equally known for using the trailing man on rushes rather than a man skating ahead of him. Gretzky would come in over the blue line and then curl, waiting for a defenseman, often Coffey, to join the rush and create a great scoring chance. When on the ice to kill penalties, Gretzky wasn’t looking to ice the puck in a defensive role; he was looking to take the other team by surprise, to take advantage of their defenselessness to score shorthanded. The result was goals and more goals – the Oilers scoring 400 a season as a matter of routine – and Gretzky won the scoring race virtually every year in the 1980s.

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There are those who think that Gretzky has already established himself as the heir to a tradition of superheroes that dates back to Howie Morenz, whose magic helped the league move from its Canadian beginnings to the bright lights of Broadway, or before Morenz, Joe Malone, who scored 44 goals in the first season the NHL ever played. Gretzky’s importance to the Oilers is impossible to exaggerate. The 137 scoring points he accumulated last year meant he was involved in 44 per cent of their goals.


  • HardBoiledOil 1.0


    terrific article…i was in the stands for Gretzky’s 1st WHA game for the Oilers and he was electric! great memories. i couldn’t believe this 17 year old was eating up much older (and sometimes much slower) experienced former NHL players…it was a sight to behold!

    • Rogue

      I too was at that game. I had followed his career for the previous couple of years. I was ecstatic to hear of the trade. I believe Eddie Mio and Peter Driscoll came with him. They played the Jets that night.

      I remember his goal,too. This skinny Kid, coming over the blueline, fading to his left,on one leg,and scoreing on a slapshot to the far side of the net, a move that was to be repeated many times over his career. I think Daly was in net.

      He was so skinny, my only fear at that time was that he might get destroyed. No one was ever more aware on the ice than him,which enabled him to survive and flourish as a player.That, we will never see again.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    I get goosebumps reading stories about Gretzky. I was born in ’86, but some of my earliest memories are going to those games with my dad. I’m really grateful for being given the chance to see such a huge part of hockey history in person.

    It’s also one of the reasons why I took him to the first (new) Jets game last year. My girlfriend wasn’t too impressed, but I don’t regret that decision in the least.

  • Woogie

    My first glimpse of Wayne was at a Ottawa 67’s game in the spring of 1978. It was billed as a battle of the scoring leaders. I attended the game with my father in law, who had watched hockey since the 1920’s. Ottawa won the game and Bobby Smith won the head to head battle, but he did have the better supporting cast. On the way out of the rink, my father in law , who had seem Morenz, Joliat and Richard many times, told me Gretzky was the best hockey player he had ever seen. I thought he was probably incorrect, but he had told me in 1972 that the Russians were the better hockey team.

  • Chaz

    As if the Greatness wasn’t enough, but he also had class to match. What does he do at the end of the celebration after the OT goal in Calgary?…He notices a fan (I assume an Oiler fan in Calgary, probably a kid) and goes over and gives them his stick. So classy!

    Also, Lowetide I remember hearing back in his Edmonton days that Gretzky had his vision tested by some expert and they said his peripheral vision was off the charts. Apparently like nothing this eye doctor had ever seen. Might help to explain his ‘6th sense’ on the ice. Not sure if this is true or just urban myth. Had you ever heard that story?

    Love Gretz!

    • Guy Lafleur

      Yes it was a young kid in Oiler gear , they showed him a few times during the game , i wonder if that kid still has that stick or probably cashed it in by now on Ebay LOL

      • Quicksilver ballet

        I remember that moment as well. Dad and son where standing in the isle waiting to make their way up to the concourse. Wayne notice the boy out of the corner of his eye, he skated over to the end of the bench and tapped the boy on the shoulder with his stick offering it to him.

        Think i was the first kid to ever receive one of Wayne Gretzkys sticks in Edmonton. After his first practice as an Oiler, he gave me an old school Northland as he headed off the ice.

  • Dipstick

    Back in ’79, I thought that Pocklington was akin to a god. How things changed a decade later. Gretzky spoiled me as a hockey fan. Nothing will likely compare to those wonderful days of my Oiler fanhood.

  • Woogie

    I was born in the early 80’s. Man I really wish I could have enjoyed back then like I would if it was now.

    The last decade I have been watching Shawn Horcoff and Moreau lighting it up. *Sigh*

  • Ya…..the good ‘Ol days. I remember having hockey drafts as a kid and you could only pick Gretzky for assists, or goals, but not both. Back then hockey was just fun, we didn’t analyze stats, or think about salaries, there was no such thing as “Pro-Line” and Candian teams were the best in the league….and Gretzky was a hero, idol, legend, not just a hockey player.

  • Spydyr

    I was there On January 28, 1979. It only makes the sale that much worse.

    As the hit man once used to say back in the day:

    Best there is,best there was,best there ever will be.

    With 99 it is the truth.

  • Chaz

    One record not listed, but maybe because it’s not really and officially tracked statistic rather than a benchmark created by the players/fans/media is his fastest to 50 goals record: 50 in 39. One thing about those days – look at the goalies and how small their equipment was… Now they cover 75% of the net just standing there… I have a feeling #99’s records will in fact last forever – unless the increase the size of the nets, or reduce goalie equipment to 80’s sizes…

  • Simpsonite

    So. I was maybe 5 or so in 84. My dad was in law school and on occassion when the Leafs were in town he’d take me to the game. I remember vividly after probably the 3rd period as the Oil are exiting the surface me leaning over the rail above them watching Gretzky followed by Coffee and Kurri come of the ice.

    As they came I yelled, “GRETZKY! GRETZKY! GRETZKY!!!” At the moment they were just to pass underneath a large bit of drool dripped out of my mouth and plopped right on either his, coffee or kurri’s helmet…

    I bolt back to my seat. My dad, “did you see him?” Me, “Nope.” “Are you sure, I heard you yelling his name?” “Nope. Somebody else.”

    Man I miss those drool filled days of yore…and awesome, awesome hockey.

  • Dipstick

    I was born in 1979 and was fortunate to learn about hockey by watching the best to ever play.

    Wayne Gretzky is the reason I’m an Oilers fan despite my Dad cheering for the Flames. Gretz is the reason I’m an Oilers fan living in Calgary today.

    As a youngster I definitely didn’t know how special these players were, but looking back I cannot believe how lucky I was. The impression made by those 80’s Oilers teams are why I cannot imagine cheering for anyone else, ever.

    It’s also the reason I’ll be watching again after the THIRD stoppage in my short-ish lifetime.

    Question: What name was on the back of your first “official” Oilers jersey?

    Mine was Tikkanen. My Dad and I drove from Fort McMurray to attend my first in-person NHL game. He dad bought it for me during the first intermission, and I had to wait until the second intermission because they had to have the guy come press Tiki’s name and number on it.

    • Rocknrolla

      Mine was a Gretzky, and we all had the red and white Titan sticks, and always tucked in the one side of the jersey. To many, like me, he was my idol as a kid playing street hockey. Great article LT!

  • stevezie

    What contributes to the liklihood that his numbers will never be matched is the quality of his teammates. With the changes over the years, you’ll likely never see another team with that many top quality players again.

    I can remember watching the Oilers come back from maybe a 6-1 deposit to win 8-7. Something like that. Fans didn’t leave early when the Oilers were down. There was always a chance they’d come back.

    My brother said ‘Enjoy this. It’s not going to last. We’re very lucky to get to witness it.’ At the time I thought it made some sense but I didn’t think we’d have a 20+ year dry spell.

  • stevezie

    The shot over Vernon was the best hockey memory I have. When I am in the home, nattering about something ‘er other, it will be about that. I hope I end up in a nursing home in Calgary…just to rub it in.

  • Rocknrolla

    It was something to be an Oiler fan in those heady days. Total and complete dominance.

    Kind of sets the bar pretty high when evaluating other teams. Like when Wings fans go on about their players and team. Very good, but not what we know great is, not even close.

    The record that strikes me is 15 – 100 point seasons. Think about that, it is insane. He scored 100 points over a time frame longer than most NHL careers. The next closest are Lemieux with 10 and then Bossy and Statsny with 7. Bobby Orr with 6 is nuts.

    To think Lemieux was in the league at the same time, the two greatest offensive players ever. That I doubt we’ll see again.

  • Guy Lafleur

    I watched every second of hockey when Gretzky was playing, especially on TV.

    He was even better live as you could better see what he was preparing to do……create something out of nothing. In his last game played in Calgary, he passed the puck to himself by banking it off the side of the net, retrieved it, did his patented swirl move behind the net, and passed it to a open player in the slot.

    If you did not see it in person, you would not believe what he did,………pure magic is what he brought each and every night!

  • sofarsogood

    I wen”t out and bought season tickets as soon as I heard we got 99. row 34, center ice. I believe the tickets were either $15 or $17, can”t remember. One of the better plays 99 did was against St. Louis. (2nd or 3rd year) I have never heard anyone talk about it or show it. He got the puck on there blue line (left side) and 3 St. louis players went at him each about a 1/4 of a second apart. 99 was close to the boards and as each come at him he faked like he was taking the puck. Each went for the fake and after all 3 were by him he finally touched the puck. During all of this the puck never moved. He then had a break away but did not score. This is probably why it was never shown again. Does anybody recall this move?

  • Reg Dunlop

    I still have my ‘Oilers-99=0’ t-shirt. It still fits, oh yaaa.

    Here is one of my Gretz stories: I was picking up my sister at the airport, at the same time Gretz was dropping Colin Campbell off at the airport after he was traded to Vancouver. We exchanged ‘hows it going?’ as he left. Then a little kid approached ME and asked for an autograph.

    My first oil jersey was #47 with ‘Snort’ on the back. Seemed funny at the time.

  • sofarsogood

    There is something beautiful about Gretzkys slapshot,he only used it in very safe areas in relativly close, because he was always headhunted he was very picky with his spots,and his bent over skating style somehow lent itself to the way he used that shot.But its simply beautiful to watch.It almost seems like he intentionally goes through the first two thirds of the shot in slo-mo and then zips it right at the end,a hesitation then a snap.

    I have never seen a team shoot the puck so freely as the old Oilers did,they didnt hesitate ever, some of those releases were so fast they are hard to catch.I dont know how I forgot it but Wayne was always a direct goal scoring threat,he was always taking it straight to the net first and he built a lot of his points off of that direct line,but somehow I remember him as a passer first,and as I watch his career highlights I realise how wrong that is,he was a scoring threat every time he had the puck and he wasnt exactly pass happy unless he had to be.I wonder if that bent over skating style gave him a tad more reach or was just a way to protect his head??Wow were we ever lucky to have him here.Thanks wayne.

  • sofarsogood

    I saw Gretzky at the Coliseum a few weeks after he got off the plane. I couldn’t get over how small he looked–a skinny kid. Couldn’t believe this was the guy all the fuss was about. Soon saw why.

    I still laugh about his first car in Edmonton–a crappy old rusty orange used Porsche 914. Look up the pictures on Google–it was a hideous car, and not a “real” Porsche, not even close. I’d love to hear the story about how and why he bought/got that thing.

  • D


    What is really striking about the Gretzky story is the series of improbable and lucky events that had to occur perfectly in the late 1970s in order for Wayne to land in Edmonton. Life is a game of inches and the stars literally aligned the right way for Edmonton.