Even if you don’t care about sports whatsoever, there’s a good chance that you know who Wayne Gretzky is. Gretzky, or “The Great One,” is one of the most iconic athletes of all time, and though he’s retired now, his mere presence at any event can cause countless individuals to basically implode with excitement. Canadians claim him as their own, since he was born in Ontario, got his start playing hockey here, and spent several years with the Edmonton Oilers. Americans have claimed him as their own ever since his move to Los Angeles, where he and his family currently reside. While Gretzky holds dual citizenship now, the mere fact that so many want a piece of the Gretzky pie proves what a big deal he still is, despite being over 50. And it doesn’t just apply to Gretzky himself – people love finding out more about his wife Janet, and his daughter Paulina and hockey-playing son Ty have both gotten their fair share of media attention as well. Let’s face it – the public just loves the Gretzkys.
Plus, let’s be honest – even though he might not be able to keep up with himself in his prime, even grandpa Gretzky can probably skate circles around the majority of young hockey stars. Those kind of skills don’t just disappear. Everyone is interested in what Wayne will do in his golden years, besides being a father, grandfather, and husband. He’s done everything from serve as an executive director for the Canadian men’s team during the 2002 Olympics to co-owning an NHL team. We’re all waiting to see what Wayne is going to do next.
When someone is such a big star in the sports world, all their fans want to know everything about them, from what they eat for breakfast to how they put on their gear. Who knows why – perhaps we think we might get a hint of his talent if we just consume the same pre-game meal as The Great One. Regardless, our thirst for fun Gretzky facts and trivia seems to be insatiable – we all want to know more about Wayne.
So, here are 15 things you may not have known about Wayne Gretzky, the Great One himself.
15 His Name was Misspelled a Lot in the Beginning
You would think when someone is as big of a deal as Wayne Gretzky, people would take extra care to spell his name correctly, right? Wrong. Early in his career, his name was misspelled frequently. In the 1980s, The Star referred to The Great One as “Gretsky” several times. Even on his personal website, the former Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington misspelled Gretzky’s name, again as “Gretsky.” I mean, what does a man have to do to get his name spelled correctly? Set countless NHL records and basically become one of the best players to have ever played the game of hockey? Oh, wait, Gretzky did that. Perhaps that’s why they no longer misspell his name.
14 He Appeared on a Soap Opera
As a professional athlete, Wayne Gretzky spent countless hours on the ice and in the gym, making sure he was in peak condition. However, in his off time, he was apparently fond of soap operas. Though his schedule was incredibly busy with all his games and endorsements, when soap opera The Young and the Restless came calling in 1981, Wayne was more than happy to carve out the time to make a small cameo on the show. Did he play a hockey player? No – though his character was still called Wayne, in the soap opera world, he was a mobster.
13 He Holds Dual Citizenship
As many of the greatest hockey players were, Wayne Gretzky was born and raised in Canada. He grew up in Brantford, Ontario, lacing up his skates at an early age on his backyard skating rink, and slowly went up through the leagues in his home province. He played professionally in his home and native land for awhile, but eventually, the sunny skies of Los Angeles wanted a piece of his talent and The Trade happened. Canada was so desperate to keep Gretzky in his home country that appeals were made to the government to stop the trade – that’s how serious Canadians take their hockey. At the end of the day, Gretzky moved down to Los Angeles and has been living there with his family for many years, hence his dual citizenship.
12 He Became Number 99 at 16 Years Old
It’s no secret that Wayne Gretzky’s favorite hockey player is Gordie Howe – he has been outspoken about Mr. Hockey throughout his career, often singing his praises in interviews. Knowing that, it only makes sense that he’d want to honor his legend by wearing his number, and when he was a young player, Gretzky donned number 9. However, when he was playing for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at age 16, his number was already taken, so he improvised by taking number 99. Ever since, that number has become Gretzky’s number – the happy accident that turned his number into an icon.
11 99 is the Only Jersey to Retire League-wide
It’s not an uncommon practice for a team to retire the number of one of their players, someone who has been with the team for many years and contributed immensely to the team’s success. In fact, each team probably has a handful of numbers that are off limits because they’re honoring a former superstar player. Some players are good enough that they manage to get their jerseys retired by two teams that they’ve spent time playing for. However, Gretzky’s jersey retirement takes the cake. Not only did the Edmonton Oilers retire number 99, not only did the Los Angeles Kings retire number 99… every team in the league did. That’s right – no one can ever don his jersey number again. Now that’s a legacy!
10 He Started Skating at 2
There are some professional athletes who get their start fairly late in life, only beginning in their sport during their teenage years and quickly improving until they manage to make it to the pro leagues. And then, there are some professional athletes who have seemingly been destined for athletic superstardom from the very beginning, who laced up their cleats before they could walk. Gretzky is one of the latter. He started skating when he was just two years old, and thanks to innovations like the backyard skating rink his dad built for him, was quickly surpassing all his peers and heading in the direction of the NHL.
9 He Owns a Restaurant
Many celebrities end up owning a restaurant at some point in their career, so why would Gretzky be any different? When it comes to his establishment, Gretzky didn’t try to open up a haute cuisine, fine dining restaurant with fussy dishes and tiny portions – he opened the kind of place where you could go and watch sports while enjoying a burger and a brew. Wayne Gretzky’s is located in Toronto on 99 Blue Jay Way and boasts a menu filled with Canadian classics. And, if you’re looking for some 99 gear, look no further – you can go home with a full stomach and some Gretzky apparel from the Tuck Shop.
8 He has Five Children
Everyone knows about Janet Gretzky – when Wayne married the blonde bombshell early in his career, the wedding was an absolute extravaganza of luxury and the whole world was watching. However, though many couples in the professional sports world end up splitting within a year or two, Wayne and Janet are still going strong and their happy union has produced five children. Everyone knows Paulina, Gretzky’s daughter with the penchant for teeny tiny bikinis and scandalous social media posts. Most have heard of Ty, the hockey playing son who was getting the attention of scouts thanks to his royal blood. However, Wayne has three other children as well – Tristan, Trevor, and Emma. We’re just going to say it now – someone please get Keeping Up With The Kardashians off the air and replace it with a reality show centered on the Gretzky family. Now that would be good television.
7 He’s an Aquarius
Thanks to his January birthday, if he ever opens the horoscope section of the newspaper, Gretzky is flipping right to the Aquarius description, his zodiac sign. Let’s run through some traits of his star sign. Aquarius’ are known to be humanitarians and very generous individuals – Gretzky is known for his charitable contributions and has always had the time to help others. They’re also known for being clever and original – considering that Gretzky pretty much pioneered a new style of skating where the puck was going to be, we’ll give him that one too. We’re not sure how much stock we put in one’s horoscope, but hey – if you’re ever wondering what Gretzky might be reading, now you know.
6 There are 50 Books Making Reference to Gretzky in the Toronto Public Library System
While Gretzky is known professionally for his time in Edmonton, with the Edmonton Oilers, he did grow up in Ontario, so he has a strong connection to that province as well. And it seems residents of Ontario are extra interested in The Great One – within the Toronto Public Library system, there are apparently 50 books that make reference to Gretzky. Sure, there’s likely a biography or two in there, but 50? That means he’s likely referenced in other hockey players’ biographies, sports anthologies, and more. Pretty impressive for a regular guy from Brantford.
5 He had his Waiting Period for the Hockey Hall of Fame Waived
When your nickname is literally The Great One, it’s safe to assume that you’re going to snag a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame – after all, he’s one of the biggest names to have played, ever, and likely will remain one of the biggest names in hockey forever. When he finally hung up his skates in 1999, he was inducted a few short months later into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Generally, players have to wait three years before they’re able to receive the honour, but no waiting for Wayne – he got his spot immediately.
4 He was in a 7-Up Commercial
Many professional athletes endorse sportswear brands, sports drinks, and other health and fitness related items. However, back in the 1980s, it was a different time – players could endorse sugary cereals and soda pop without having fingers pointed at them, and that’s exactly what Gretzky did. He even brought his younger brother, Keith, along for the ride, and together they starred in a 7-Up commercial in 1981. Sure, it may not have been as iconic as many of the Pepsi commercials starring celebrities have been over the years, but it's still pretty hilarious.
3 He had a Soft Spot for a Particular Sports Journalist
For many professional athletes, a big salary and fame comes with a big ego and tendency to forget where they started out. That’s definitely not the case for Gretzky. Once upon a time, when Gretzky was still in the minor leagues, a sports journalist named Ted Beare who worked for the Brantford Expositor was the first ever reporter to cover The Great One in a publication. When every sports journalist in town was chasing him down for interviews and stories, Gretzky may have declined interviews because of his busy schedule – but never with Beare. According to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Gretzky always returned Beare’s phone calls – always. Beare has unfortunately passed away, but Gretzky’s loyalty to those who were there when he was just starting out is truly admirable.
2 He’s Involved in the Wine Business
When you think of sports, you often think of beer and burgers – after all, what’s better than enjoying an exciting game with a cold beer in one hand and a greasy bacon cheeseburger in the other? However, Gretzky’s tastes are a little more refined than you might think. In addition to the sports bar he opened, he also created Wayne Gretzky Estates, a winery. The winery initially began in Ontario, and has since expanded to include wines from Canada’s Okanagan region. Hey – maybe if you drink what the Great One drinks, some of his talents will rub off, right?
1 He’d Still Hold Records if he Hadn’t Scored a Single Goal in his Career
Wayne Gretzky holds many, many NHL records, and there are likely some that will remain unbroken for decades to come. One of his many records includes having the most NHL career points – 2,857, to be exact. However, get this – even if he had never scored a single one of his staggering 894 goals, he would still be the league’s all-time leading scorer. How? All those assists – 1,963, to be exact. That’s right – The Great One wasn’t just great individually. He was an incredible offensive player who helped his entire line achieve success.