April 16th is probably a pretty lame day to most people. Today specifically is a Monday, it might be a pay-day for a lot of people, the weather is pretty disappointing here in Edmonton, and there are no Oilers playoff games scheduled for the foreseeable future.
One COOL thing about April 16th is that this day in hockey history, Wayne Gretzky announced his retirement. That’s right, 19 years ago today in 1999, the greatest player to ever touch a hockey puck retired from the NHL. Two days later on April 18, 1999, he would play his last career NHL game.
Unfortunately, I was too young to watch Gretzky play in his prime. For some reason, I do remember watching his final game of the NHL though. I was six years old watching it with my family. All I remember was my brother explaining to me that the this is a very historic hockey game, and that the greatest hockey player in history is playing his his final game. I was very confused and didn’t really understand the concept. I remember watching Gretzky skate around and thinking to myself: “how is this guy the best player in the world?” … obviously not grasping the concept of age and skill digression.
All eyes in the hockey world were glued to the news 19 years ago today when Gretzky announced his retirement. He stood in front of the press in his black suit alongside his family and Gary Bettman and gave his speech. If you want to read the whole speech you can find it here.
It’s tough, it’s hard, it’s going to be a big change for me, but a challenge and change that I look forward to in the future. I said this to many people, many times that everything I have in my life I owe to the National Hockey League and the game of hockey. It brought me endless moments and memories and great times.
You know Gretz spent the rest of his week soaking in every moment possible. He tallied an assist in his final game with the Rangers and had a very emotional goodbye with the fans. Although he didn’t retire with the Oilers, it’s amazing how fortunate we are to have him play most of his great career in our city. Do you remember watching his final game? Let me know in the comments with your favourite Gretz memory.
Wayne Gretzky Career Stats