GRETZKY, WAYNE (b. 1961)
Wayne Gretzky was not born in the Great Plains, but his name will always be associated with Great Plains ice hockey. Gretzky, born on January 26, 1961, in Brantford, Ontario, is one of the greatest ice hockey players of all time. He started his professional career in the World Hockey Association (WHA) by playing for the Indianapolis Racers and Edmonton Oilers before moving in 1979 into the National Hockey League (NHL) with the Oilers, wearing number 99. His nine seasons with the Oilers established him as arguably the greatest ever to play the game. While in Edmonton, Gretzky was awarded the Hart Trophy, given to the NHL's most valuable player, every year from 1980 to 1987 and again in 1989 as well as the Art Ross Trophy for the league's scoring leader eight times (1981–87, 1990–91, and 1994). During the 1981–82 season he scored the fastest fifty goals and 100 points in one season (thirtyeight games). He holds fourteen NHL career records and led the Oilers to five Stanley Cups.
Gretzky became a hockey icon in Edmonton and developed similar followings playing for the Los Angeles Kings (1988–95), St. Louis Blues (1995–96), and New York Rangers (1996 to his retirement in 1999). With his popularity among the fans and his numerous trophies, awards, and honors, it is easy to understand why Wayne Gretzky was named the top player of all time in 1998 by the Hockey News and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999.
Lisa M. DeChano Western Michigan University
National Hockey League. The Official Guide and Record Book, 1996-1997. Chicago: Triumph Books, 1997.