Regarded as the greatest player to ever don the blades, Wayne Gretzky’s career more than speaks for itself. It’s always “good times” engaging in those discussions of “who is the best player ever?” across the spectrum of professional sports. However, when it comes to hockey, all discussions must begin with number two, as Gretzky is number one. Although not revealing anything new, and only using the reader’s capacity of recollection to reiterate what may have been forgotten in the present NHL where a guy like David Clarkson can steal $5.25 million a year for totaling 26 points in two seasons, that in his 20-year career, Wayne Gretzky grabbed over 100 points on 15 occasions – and over 200 four times! Last year the NHL leader in points was Jamie Benn with 87. In Gretzky’s 19th year in the NHL he tallied more points than that; in fact, many players did that well into the late 1990s. With respect to the Great One, we are truly talking unmatched talent, attached with serious longevity and inarguable numbers.
For Gretzky, opposing teams, from his first game as a kid to his retirement after 20 years as a pro, were out to get him. Coaches, players, writers, scouts, etc., were always looking for a crack in his game, but found nothing. For some, it was (and continues to be) just plain hard to like a guy who is so much better than everyone else. Gretzky was, and continues to be, a gentleman on and off the ice and has been an exceptional ambassador for Canada and the game of hockey, which exists in its present fashion at the NHL level largely because of him. Yet, there are dissenters and the following list is concerning them; the Top 11 People Who Don’t Like Wayne Gretzky.
11 Stan Fischler
If by chance you remember the publication Hockey Digest (modeled after Reader’s Digest), then you’d likely remember the column “Who’s Better?” authored monthly by Stan Fischler, the famed New York sportswriter and hockey authority. In the February edition in 1985, Fischler came to the conclusion in his segment “Who’s Better? Gretzky vs. Trottier” that the Islander was the better of the two. If this sounds crazy, it’s because it is – given that in the 1984 season Gretzky had 100 points more that Trottier. The article and its deduction basically revealed Fischler as a “homer” and a Gretzky denier.
10 Canadian Liberals
After an NHL career that essentially saw Gretzky as apolitical, he recently managed to alienate Canadian liberals. Never shy about his love for Canada, the Great One usually steered well clear of politics during his career, until his recent endorsement of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This proved quite timely for Harper, perhaps even unknown to Gretzky, with a federal election just around the corner. Speaking to and of Stephen Harper, Gretzky said, “I think you’ve been an unreal prime minister. You’ve been wonderful to all the country.” Accused now by liberals of having always played “right wing” rather than “center,” Canadian liberals are people who don’t like Wayne Gretzky.
9 Doug Lecuyer, Neal Broten, and Bob Murray
Number 99 dropped the gloves on three occasions during his professional career and although they might not have disliked him per se, they still fought the guy. First, on March 14th, 1980 Gretzky faced Doug Lecuyer of the Chicago Blackhawks. Gretzky and Lecuyer dropped the mitts late in the third period and, with Lecuyer being no stranger to the box having 362 penalty minutes in his last year of junior with the Portland Winter Hawks, the Great One was in well over his head. By the time the other Oilers realized what was going on, the tilt was over. Gretzky’s second fight was against the Minnesota North Stars’ Neal Broten on December 22nd, 1982. This folks is a good one. Gretzky actually dropped the gloves first and, as he stepped into Broten (who wasn’t a fighter at all), he was met with a few right uppercuts and down he went. Lastly, on March 7th, 1984, two years after falling to Broten, Wayne Gretzky went up against Bob Murray of the Chicago Blackhawks. Murray, who is presently the GM of the Anaheim Ducks, actually went easy on Gretzky. In recollecting his tilt with Murray, the Great One said, “I swung at him and he blocked it and knocked me down. He said, ‘Had Enough?’ I said ‘Yes,’ and that was the fight.”
8 Doug Gilmour
If you are from Toronto, or are a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, the vision of Gretzky high sticking Gilmour on May 27th, 1993 is forever etched in your memory. The Leafs were leading the Campbell Conference Finals 3-2 and were down late in game six when Wendel Clark scored, making the score 4-4, to send the game into overtime. In extra time, the Great One’s stick met Gilmour’s face drawing blood, but no call. Kerry Fraser, who even consulted with his lineman having not seen the infraction, calls it his “worst moment” as an NHL official. Gretzky went on to score the overtime winner in game 5 and despite even Doug Gilmour pleading years later for Leafs fans to let the “High Stick” incident go – they just can’t.
7 Toronto Maple Leafs Fans
The Gilmour high stick wasn’t the end of Gretzky ‘s work against the Leafs. In game 7 of that series, the Great Gretzky was at it again and ruined the Toronto Maple Leafs’ hopes of reaching the Stanley Cup (it would have been a Montreal/Toronto Final that year if the Leafs had won). In what Gretzky would refer to as one of the “greatest” games he’s ever played, he netted a hat trick and assisted on another. The Kings won 5-4 and Leafs fans have been bitter ever since.
6 Slava Bykov
As the Cold War was nearing its end, the 1987 Canada Cup had Mario Lemieux playing on a line with Wayne Gretzky and the finish couldn’t have been scripted any better. With the game tied 5-5, the Canadians broke into the Soviet end and Gretzky made a back pass to Lemieux who then went top shelf giving Canada the win – it is considered one of the most important goals in Canadian hockey history and one we’ve all seen many times over. Does anyone remember the third skater on that line? It was Dale Hawerchuck of the Winnipeg Jets who, if you look at the play from behind, set a nice hook in on Slava Bykov (who was wearing #27 for the Russians) and lifted him clean off his feet. Bykov was on the back check and could have either made it to Lemieux or even Larry Murphy who was heading toward the net when he was taken down. That play, for the Soviets, is like the Gilmour high stick for Leafs fans. No doubt Slava doesn’t like Gretzky, or Lemiex, and certainly not Hawerchuck.
5 Luc Robitaille
Before Gretzky’s arrival in Los Angeles, Luc Robitaille was their star and had already posted 111 points in 1987-88. After Gretzky’s arrival, and later the addition of Kurri, things were going very well for Robitaille. Then, in 1994 the Kings made a trade for Rick Tocchet and Lucky Luc was gone. For Robitaille, who was drafted by and had only played for the LA Kings, it seemed like an underhanded move by the organization – a move that, at the time, Robitaille felt Gretzky had a hand in. Years later, and “a lot of water under the bridge” as Robitaille says, he and Gretzky did team up again in 1996-97 with the Rangers for one season.
4 Phoenix Coyotes Players
The one thing Gretzky wasn’t “great” at in the NHL was coaching. In his four years as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, Gretzky failed to make the playoffs once and his overall record sits well below .500. Gretzky’s failure behind the bench is two-fold. Firstly, he just couldn’t coach. He had absolutely no experience other than the fact that he could play the game better than anyone else. Secondly, the roster wasn’t all that good either and there were always budgetary concerns when putting their squad together. In sum, as a coach Gretzky obviously saw the game in a way that his players couldn’t possibly expect to and he could therefore never maximize his player’s abilities.
3 Mark Crawford
Nagano Olympics 1998 and the Canadian team goes into a shootout with the Czech Republic in the Semi Final. The coach of that team, the first year that NHLers competed in the Olympics, was Mark Crawford. Each team selected five shooters, Crawford’s list was: Theoren Fleury, Raymond Bourque, Joe Nieuwendyk, Eric Lindros, and Brendan Shanahan. No Gretzky, the greatest goal scorer to ever play hockey. In short, the Canadians couldn’t put one by Dominik Hasek in the shootout and the expected Olympic Gold Medal would have to wait until 2002. Bobby Clarke had chosen Lindros as captain that year and Crawford left Gretzky off the shootout list; little wonder things ended the way they did.
2 The Hockey Writers
In a recent Hockey Writers article, they have Wayne Gretzky riding shotgun with Marty McFly in his tricked out DeLorean and arriving to play in today’s NHL. Why do this you may ask? To make the argument that if we were to go “back to the future,” Wayne Gretzky and Sydney Crosby would basically put up the same numbers. The article begins with “I can hear the rage in the comments already,” as if fully anticipating backlash for its nonsensical claims. When the numbers are actually crunched, the article has Crosby at 0.48 GPG and 1.36 PPG and Gretzky (adjusted) at 0.49 GPG and 1.56 PPG. Completely forgotten is the fact that the Great One also played 20 years in the NHL, Crosby is only halfway there and only scored 28 goals last year – The Kid needs to do much better than that to even warrant the comparison at all
1 Don Cherry
Dear Mr. Cherry:
Bobby Orr was the second best hockey player of all time – Wayne Gretzky was better. Speaking strictly from a numbers standpoint alone, Orr just doesn’t measure up categorically. This, incidentally, shouldn’t take away from Orr as a one of the greatest players of all time. He literally did it all from the blueline: led the league in scoring (which will never happen again), a multiple Norris, Hart, Art Ross, and Conn Smythe winner, and two Stanley Cups. Number 4 was truly amazing, just not better than Number 99.