For someone like the Great One, insane stories are probably not hard to come by. It seems like excitement just follows them around. Wayne Gretzky's talent and notoriety in the NHL made him famous throughout Canada and the U.S., and to this day he’s widely regarded as one of the most famous athletes of his time. His NHL records are unbeatable and his feats on the ice are recognized across the world. Everyone knows number 99, whether you're a fan of the game of hockey or not. Odds are though, when you think of Gretzky you think of his stats and not necessarily anecdotes of his off the ice.
But how much do you really know the Great One and some of his most entertaining stories? You’d be surprised at how much you didn’t know, as some of these tales have flown under the radar. Like, did you know that Wayne Gretzky was not even drafted? But how, you may ask?
Well, it looks like you're going to have to read on to find out. This article looks at the 15 of the most insane Gretzky stories and uncovers things you may not have known about the Canadian icon.
15 Public Speaking
For a person that made a living being great on the ice, he sure charges a lot to hear him speak. In fact, according to the Toronto Star and playingfieldpromotions.com, that fee is not a penny less than minimum $50.001. Not bad for a night of basically talking about all the great things you’ve done, unbreakable records you set, and what you like to do on your free time. But people always want a slice of greatness, and I would probably pay the fee myself if I could afford it.
Needless to say, when you’re the Great One, you can charge whatever the hell you want to do whatever the hell you please, and people will love it. Over the course of an amazing NHL career, you’ll know Gretzky will have some pretty special stories.
14 Wayne (Gretzky’s) World
Wayne’s World, starring Canadian actor Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, started in 1987 as a segment for CBC Television called “Wayne’s Power Minute." Those segments eventually evolved into sketches for Saturday Night Live and the aforementioned movie title.
While Gretzky was tearing it up in the NHL, he was making a name for himself across North America as one of the greatest athletes on the planet, and his popularity was unmatched, until perhaps the emergence of Michael Jordan. It even led to the Great One being featured on an episode of Wayne’s World for SNL, in which Mike Myers would have a dream that he played hockey with Gretzky. It was one of their most memorable sketches during that time period, proving that, whether it was on the ice or on the television screen, you could just never have enough of Gretzky.
13 Hall of Wayne
In the NHL, there is no bigger honor than being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Players wait years and years, wondering if they’ll get that call and have their names cemented into hockey history. Usually, there is a three-year waiting period after retirement to even be eligible to be selected, but that rule was easily overlooked for the Great One. He became the last ever player so far to have the three-year waiting period waived, and only the 10th player in NHL history.
I guess it isn't the most insane story, considering the fact that people expected as much after Gretzky retired. But looking at this all these years later just solidifies the legend that is Gretzky. "I used to visit the Hall of Fame [in Toronto], but I never thought I'd be a part of it," said Gretzky, who grew up in nearby Brantford, Ontario. "If you work hard, great things can happen. Dreams do come true. I'm living proof of that." Pretty humble coming from the guy who holds 61 NHL records.
12 The Great Cake
Turning 18 is a pretty important milestone; in North American culture, it signifies the age when a boy becomes a man, or a girl becomes a woman. So how did the Great One celebrate his 18th birthday? At the time, young Wayne was already a part of the Edmonton Oilers and turning heads all over the league. So for his birthday, his teammates wheeled an enormous cake to the middle of the ice. It was then brought back to the dressing room, and in the apparent excitement, one of his teammates sat on the cake. Whether he sat on it with or without pants remains a mystery, but the cake was rendered inedible after the incident. I'm guessing Gretzky wasn't too mad, simply because he was already a star in the making.
11 Gretzky Discovered
Who is Ted Beare? Perhaps you’ve never heard of him, but his part in the making of Gretzky is perhaps the most crucial. Beare used to be a sports editor at the Brantford Expositor, and he was the first sportswriter to ever cover Gretzky, back when he was just a kid. As a result, Gretzky and Beare maintained a relationship that probably made other journalists very jealous. According to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Gretzky would always return Beare’s phone calls and help him any time he needed, something he didn’t do for other reporters. It just goes to show what type of person the Great One really was.
Beare, unfortunately, passed away in 2011, but his lasting memory in the world of hockey is impressive; the first journalist to ever write about the greatest hockey player of all time.
10 Janet Gretzky in Hollywood
Something that a lot of people didn’t know is that Gretzky’s long-time wife, Janet Jones, is an American actress. Her most prominent role was probably in 1984, where she played Matt Dillon’s girlfriend in a movie called The Flamingo Kid. She acted in many other movies and gigs, mostly in the 1980s. Later on, her and her daughter, Paulina, were involved in the movie Alpha Dog, starring Justin Timberlake.
In 1987, Janet even appeared in a semi-nude publication for Playboy. A year later, she appeared in Police Academy 5 with Geena Davis and Madonna. Gretzky and Janet had actually first met on the set Dance Fever in 1984, where Gretzky was a judge. The two now have five children together.
It was a longstanding belief in Edmonton that Janet being an actress influenced the trade that sent Gretzky to L.A.
9 Gretzky and the Moss
Before getting married to American actress Janet Jones, Gretzky’s longtime girlfriend was singer Vicki Moss. The two originally met in 1981 bar where Moss was performing. The insane story is not really the fact that they dated, but the positive impact Wayne had on the entire family. Vicki’s brother, Joey, who has down syndrome and has been an Oilers dressing room attendant for 32 years, said in a 2013 interview to Gretzky: “Thank you very much…for my life.”
Joey’s guardian, Stephen, changed the Moss family completely. He started by giving their mother, Sophie, a job answering his fan mail. Gretzky at the time would receive about 20,000 letters a week from fans. In 1988, with money raised from numerous golf tournaments, Wayne established “Joey’s Home Trust”, which ended up building a 12-unit facility for eight assisted living individuals.
8 What Came First: Skating or Walking?
Most of us learn to walk at around one or one and a half, some of us even a little bit later. It’s slow at first, but before you know it we’re running around everywhere, and all of a sudden everything in the house becomes a hazard. Walking is one thing, but what about skating? Is it even possible for a two-year-old to skate? Well, it was for Wayne Gretzky, who started skating at that age. Naturally, you probably need to learn how to walk to be able to skate, but I’m sure the two were not very far apart.
Gretzky’s father, Walter Gretzky, is credited for putting his son on skates at such a young age, but the commitment obviously paid off. What’s the lesson here, folks? If you've got a talent, start young.
7 99 Will Be No More
The number 99, as far as I can remember, has always been associated to Wayne Gretzky, the Great One, indisputably the best player to ever play the game. And to boot, he had the most memorable number. What makes it particularly special is that he was the first ever player to ever wear the number 99, and only two other players wore it while he was in the league for four seasons combined. It was, therefore, easier for the league to decide that retiring his number league-wide was not only a nice gesture but not too inconvenient in the long run.
Gretzky’s number remains the only one to be retired league-wide, although the Great One himself has seriously advocated for Gordie Howe’s jersey to receive the same honor. Whether that will happen remains to be seen. Although his was the only one retired league-wide, no one has worn Lemieux’s famous number 66 since he retired, making it a silent league-wide jersey retirement.
6 Gretzky on the Table?
Although we don’t know to a certainty that it is true, many people have come forth and said it was, making it one of the most insane sports stories to exist. And it just so happens to involve the Great One. Gretzky made his professional hockey debut in the World Hockey Association’s Indianapolis Racers and was “on paper” sold to the Edmonton Oilers. But there’s another rumor floating about that Oilers owner Peter Pocklington won Gretzky from Racers owner Nelson Skalbania. Also included in the wager was some of Pocklington’s artwork, other hand-chosen players by Pocklington, and a lot of money.
Pocklington would win and history would be made as the Edmonton Oilers would acquire the greatest hockey player of all time at the age of 17. Although the details are a little hazy and this story isn’t confirmed to be true, Oilers general manager Larry Gordon swears it happened, and that he was there for the backgammon game. "I saw it in progress and I knew the stakes were very high and I was cheering like heck for Peter," Gordon said. "I think there was some art involved from Peter's side and from Nelson's side it happened to be hockey players. It was kind of a strange transaction in the world of sports. I didn't care if Peter lost and lost his artwork. I was more interested that he won and get some hockey players to build our foundation with. Yes, he kept his artwork, ended up with some hockey players and paid out some cash in the transaction."
Players like to do different things on their afternoons off, but Gretzky’s hobby was perhaps the oddest. The young superstar had a love of soap operas, even an addiction, some may say. So much so that Gretzky actually made an appearance on The Young and The Restless. The episode aired on November 12th, 1981 and Wayne was cast as a mafia goon. That’s right, out of all the crazy things athletes have done throughout the history of sport, Gretzky appearing on a soap opera has got to be the weirdest.
He only had one line in his debut, consisting of six words “I’m Wayne from the Edmonton Operation.” You just wouldn’t think that the best hockey player in the world would have the same hobby as middle-aged housewives, but the world is full of surprises.
4 10-Year-Old Gem
Even for someone who started skating at two years old, it was extremely evident at how superior Wayne Gretzky was to anybody that shared the ice with him. At six years old, he was playing on a team composed solely of 10-year-old kids. At 10 years old, playing for Brantford Nadrofsky Steelers, he scored 378 goals and 139 assists in just one season. By age 13, he had scored over 1,000 goals. He was so prolific that even the parents of his teammates often booed him. Undeterred by the calls of the mediocre, Gretzky trail-blazed forward and did what he had to do.
His play at such a young age attracted mounds of media attention beyond his hometown of Ontario, and the legend of Gretzky had officially begun.
3 Gretzky Meets Jordan
Imagine the setting: the Hard Rock casino in Vegas, the Mecca of the gambling world. A private salon in the back, where a high-stake game was happening between two legends of sports, Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan. This story was originally shared by Rich Strafella, a VP and longtime gaming executive at the Hard Rock in Vegas. Here is his story in his own words.
“I remember a night when Wayne Gretzky insulted Michael Jordan at the table. It was a private salon game. Michael had ordered a drink from the cocktail waitress, and he gave her a five-dollar chip. Wayne took it off the cocktail waitress' tray, gave it back to Michael, grabbed a hundred-dollar chip from Michael’s stack and put it on the cocktail waitress’ tray. Then he said “That’s how we tip in Las Vegas, Michael.””
I don’t even know if a more legendary story involving sports legends even exists. If it does, I would be happy to hear it and compare.
2 Gretzky’s Genius
Believe it or not, Gretzky was at a physical disadvantage when he first started playing hockey. He wasn’t large and strong like most of the players in the NHL at the time and had to find other ways to stand out. His eyes and mind needed to be the best in the league. His father Walter made him watch hockey games with a pen and paper, and trace everywhere the puck was going for an entire period of 20 minutes. When the period was over, the darkest areas of the page are where the puck was most likely to be.
With time and practice, Gretzky gained a sixth sense for being wherever the puck was most often. This ability became the trademark of his career and would leave defensemen nonplussed. It is also probably the inspiration behind his most famous quote: “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been.”
1 Assists for the Win
Out of all the facts, stats, and stories involving the Great One, this is perhaps the one stat that shows how extremely talented he was. So here goes. Gretzky finished his career with the most goals, assists, and points ever recorded in all three categories. He scored 894 goals, and recorded 1,963 assists, for a grand total of 2,857 points. Now if Gretzky had not scored all of his 894 goals, not a single one of them, he would still be the point leader in the NHL’s all-time history. Take a second to realize how significant that stat is. Gretzky was not just a prolific goal scorer, he was an offensive catalyst that made his entire line better.
The player with the second highest points tally was none other than his line-mate Mark Messier, who finished his career with 1,887 points all time, very close to matching Gretzky’s assist total.