Wayne Gretzky is the name that comes up the most when thinking of the greatest hockey player of all time. Any hockey fan knows how great Gretzky was, which is why many refer to him as "The Great One." He finished his NHL career with 2,857 points, the most all-time. Starting from his minor league days back in Bantford, Ontario, Gretzky was always one level above the league he was playing in. He scored the 1,000th goal of his life at the age of only 13 during an exhibition game. You could only imagine how good of a player he'd turn out to be after watching him play as a kid.
As we've seen in the past, professional sports players aren't always the same person as they appear to be on television compared to when in public. Believe it or not, some pros have difficult personal lives or are dealing with something difficult that others may not know about. Luckily for Wayne, he hasn't had the worst of things to deal with throughout his life, but it hasn't been all smooth sailing either. We decided to look into the things that not many hockey fans know about Wayne Gretzky, from his personal life to his game on the ice.
This list focuses on some hidden facts and stories behind the legendary hockey player. There are some things that the NHL probably doesn't want you to know about their all-time greatest player because it may downplay Gretzky's greatness. The fact of the matter is, we are all human and go through our own tough times at some point. That being said, not everything on this list is a negative part of The Great One's life either. There are some surprising stories that you may not have known about. If you aren't a Gretzky fan, there are some facts in here that may get under your skin too. Have a look at 15 things that the NHL wouldn't tell you about The Great One.
15 Great Player, Bad Coach
Gretzky was named head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes in 2005 and coached the team for four seasons before stepping down after the 2008-09 season. Unfortunately, The Great One's tenure was a huge disappointment as the Coyotes failed to make the playoffs and finished near the bottom of the league in each of the four seasons he coached. While being considered the greatest hockey player of all time, Gretzky was unable to translate his success as a player to coaching and for once looked like a failure. He learned how difficult it is to be a successful coach in the NHL the hard way. Since resigning as coach of the Coyotes, he has not been contacted about a coaching job in the NHL and it is unlikely that he will ever return behind the bench.
14 Paulina's Photos
As you may or may not know, one of the biggest controversies surrounding the Gretzky family has been the photos of Paulina Gretzky that have circulated the internet. The photos that have caught the eyes of people are the ones of her modelling in a bikini, of course, which she seems to take frequently. One of her most controversial photos, however, has been her picture which appeared on the cover for the Golf's Digest magazine in 2014.
The criticism received was based on several things. Some didn't find what she was wearing appropriate, and that this was just a way of Golf's Digest to attempt to sell more magazines. Others felt that she had nothing to do with the sport of golf and shouldn't be on the cover. Whatever the case may be, Paulina has been widely regarded as Wayne Gretzky's hot daughter thanks to her photos on the internet. You can also check out some of the pictures on her Instagram that have caught the eyes of many people, which I doubt Wayne is very fond of.
13 Janet Jones' Illegal Gambling
In 2006, it had been reported that Gretzky's wife, Janet Jones, had been one of the group of people that placed bets with a nationwide sports gambling ring that had been financed by the Coyotes' assistant coach at the time, Rick Tocchet. These bets had nothing to do with NHL games and had only been placed on football and basketball games.
Luckily, Mrs. Gretzky didn't face any charges, but this did put a small spotlight on Wayne, who knew about what had been going on but wasn't involved in the betting himself. You have to think that the NHL wouldn't be happy to hear that such a scandal occurred concerning the greatest player in the league's history. Fortunately, there weren't any prosecutions made, and the Gretzky's were able to move on from the situation.
12 The Great Drinker?
As previously mentioned, Gretzky has been widely known as "The Great One" dating back to his days as a player in the NHL. However, since his retirement there have been times where Gretzky has been seen drunk in public, which leads us to ask: Is Wayne as good a drinker as he was a hockey player? Well, it appears as though The Great One has a tough time controlling his liquor, especially after there had been photos of a drunk Wayne Gretzky that circulated the internet after he took part in a charity golf tournament in Greenville, South Carolina. He had been eliminated early on in the tournament and was later spotted drinking and taking photos with fans. These are definitely photos that the NHL wouldn't want you to see of their all-time greatest player as it gives a pretty bad image of The Great One and one that he wouldn't be proud of either.
11 He Became Pro At 17 Years Old
For as long as the NHL has existed, players are only draft eligible if they are at least 18 years old, or are turning 18 prior to September 16th. That wasn't the case for Wayne Gretzky. In 1978, Gretzky signed with the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA at age 17, where he played just eight games before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers, who were initially part of the WHA before they merged with the NHL in 1979. This meant that Gretzky didn't have to go through a draft and was immediately an NHL player before even being eligible to play. Many feel that Gretzky should have returned to junior and go through the draft like any other prospect, which would have given every NHL team the chance to draft him. Unfortunately for the other NHL franchises, they didn't get that chance and the Oilers were lucky enough to have him fall in their lap.
10 He Almost Signed With The Toronto Maple Leafs
Yes, that is true. After finishing a short stint with the St.Louis Blues, Gretzky was an unrestricted free agent in the mid-1990s and his name had been linked to signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In fact, the Vancouver Canucks were also another team that The Great One had considered joining. Gretzky, who grew up in Brantford, Ontario, had discussions with his agent about possibly going to play for his hometown club in Toronto. However, it turns out the Leafs organization at the time was trying to raise enough money to move into a new arena and weren't able to afford Wayne. There were brief talks with the Canucks, but they ended up falling through. Who knows if the Leafs would still be in a Stanley Cup drought if they got their hands on The Great One.
9 He Helped Select The 2006 Canadian Olympic Hockey Team
Gretzky was named executive director for the Canadian national men's hockey team in 2002 during the Winter Olympics. The team had won gold that year, but their 2006 tournament was a huge disappointment. Gretzky and the management team had picked a team that was very similar to the team four years prior, thinking that they could pull out the same result; instead, they finished at an all-time low, 7th place in the tournament.
A lot of criticism came towards the Canadian management team (including Gretzky) for their poor selection of players, especially going for a team that was similar to the one that won in 2002, given that they were now four years older and simply not as good. Gretzky's job was later given to Steve Yzerman who selected two gold medal Canadian teams in 2010 and 2014. The 2006 tournament is certainly one all Canadians and Gretzky would like to forget.
8 He Endorsed Stephen Harper
Many Canadians expressed their discontent with the former Canadian Prime Minister's policies heading into the last federal election nearly two years ago. Despite not being allowed to vote for the first time, The Great One was surprisingly in favour of all that Mr. Harper did for the country. Wayne gave praise to Stephen Harper at a Conservative Party event in Toronto calling him "one of the greatest Prime Ministers ever", and that he's been "wonderful to the country". This didn't sit well with a lot of Canadians who were Gretzky fans and anti-Stephen Harper. Many of them expressed their feelings towards the situation with hate comments on social media. Fortunately for many Canadians, Justin Trudeau was elected as their most recent prime minister in October of 2015.
7 Dustin Johnson's Drug Issues
Paulina Gretzky has been engaged to professional golfer Dustin Johnson since 2013. The couple had plans to get married in 2014, but that had been delayed because Johnson was dealing with drug problems. Johnson had taken a leave of absence from golf for "personal challenges" and missed out on two major tournaments. It was later discovered that he had been dealing with drug issues. Johnson had been suspended for six months after failing his third drug test.
This led to his future father in-law, Wayne Gretzky, to have a serious discussion with him about getting his act together. Gretzky even threatened to call off the wedding if Johnson didn't shape up. It turns out that Gretzky played a huge role in getting Johnson to get back to his normal self and prevented him from throwing his life down the drain.
6 He Originally Wanted To Play Baseball
Despite being the greatest to ever play the game of hockey, Wayne Gretzky has admitted that he would have much rather be a professional baseball player. He recently admitted in a radio interview that he grew up a huge Detroit Tigers fan, and that it was his dream to suit up for them one day. Gretzky also mentions how he dreamed of one day competing for Canada at the Olympics in the 1,500-meter marathon. Fortunately for all hockey fans, Gretzky's dad kept trying to convince him that he's a hockey player and eventually convinced him to pursue hockey all the way. I think we can all agree that he made the right choice.
5 He's Been Traded Three Times As A Pro
Who would have thought that the greatest player in NHL history would have been traded three times in his professional career? This is an extreme rarity for the NHL in today's game, as the top players in the league almost always remain untouchable and blockbuster trades simply don't happen as much as they used to.
Gretzky was first traded in the first year he turned pro playing in the WHA for the Indianapolis Racers. He had been traded to the Edmonton Oilers, who he spent nearly ten years with before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings which became the most famous trade in NHL history. The Kings then traded Gretzky to the Blues in 1996 for three players and two draft picks. The Great One ended up playing for five different professional hockey teams (WHA & NHL) in his career, which is probably too many for someone of his caliber.
4 He Loves Soap Operas
In the busy life of a professional hockey player, one might wonder: "What do these guys do on their free time?" Well, apparently The Great One developed a love for soap operas, and even appeared on one as he was looking for something to occupy himself during his free time as a young NHL star.
At just 20 years old, Gretzky appeared on the soap opera "The Young And The Restless" and was casted as a mafia member. Wayne only had one line for his role which said: "I'm Wayne from the Edmonton operation." Gretzky is probably the last person anyone could imagine appearing on a soap opera, let alone playing a mafia member.
3 His Trade To Los Angeles Was Influenced By Alan Thicke
Alan Thicke, who passed away recently in December of 2016, is known to be one of the major influences of the trade that sent Wayne Gretzky to the L.A Kings. Thicke was one of the first celebrities to appear at Kings games in the 1970's and developed a relationship with the Kings' owner at the time, Jack Kent Cooke.
Thicke met Gretzky at the 1981 All-Star game in Los Angeles and began mentoring the young superstar about how to deal with fame and showing him around the city. During the summer of 1988, Gretzky spent time at Thicke's house in L.A while the Kings were working on a deal to acquire the Oilers' forward. It had been reported that while Wayne was house-sitting, the Kings were constantly calling Thicke's house for Gretzky and a deal was being worked out in secret.
The trade officially went down on August 9th, 1988. Alan Thicke was in Norway and Wayne was house-sitting his son Robin (11 years old at the time) with his future wife Janet. Thicke had seen Gretzky's photo in a local newspaper in Norway and called back home to learn the news that Wayne had been traded and had left the house early that morning.
2 His Number Is Retired By Your Team
While only the Oilers and Kings have officially raised the #99 to the rafteer can wear it. This is a way of the NHL honoring The Great One and stating that no other player will be able to represent that number as well as he did.
This may be something that Oilers and Kings fans support but perhaps may bother the fans of other NHL teams, having a number retired by a player who had nothing to do with their organization. There is no doubt that Gretzky is the greatest ever and deserves the highest of honors by the league, but given that he's the only pro sports player to have his number retired league-wide, is it a bit too much? I'll leave that up to you to decide.
1 He Currently Holds 61 NHL Records
If you're not a fan of Wayne Gretzky, or are not convinced that he is the greatest NHLer of all time, just know that he's currently holding a total of 61 NHL records. That is obviously far more than any other player. Gretzky's incredible career has him holding a remarkable amount of NHL records that include 40 regular season, 15 playoff and six All-Star records. Some of them are completely unreal to imagine happening in today's NHL, like winning 10 Art Ross trophies, scoring 92 goals in a season, having over 1000 career goals, the list can go on.
Gretzky's career stats are so superior that if he didn't score a single goal in his career he would still have the most points in NHL history. Some of these records are simply unbreakable and many of them probably won't be broken any time soon. Will the NHL ever see another Gretzky? Probably not. This is why many records will eventually be down-played to help fit the modern look and style of the NHL.