The Great One

“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”
Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky’s accomplishments are mind- boggling. He is the only NHL player to score over 200 points in a season. His number 99 is retired by all NHL teams.

Gretzky led the Edmonton Oilers to four Championships. After being traded to the Los Angleles Kings, he helped popularize hockey in California. Gretzky was named the NHL’s MVP(Hart Trophy) nine times; no other athlete in any of the four major team sports has won that many MVP Awards.  He also won the Lady Byng Trophy, emblematic of good sportsmanship, five times.

Gretzky retired in 1999 and immediately was inducted into Hockey’s Hall of Fame. He later coached the Phoenix Coyotes for several seasons.

I can’t say there was a “buzz” in Indianapolis when 17 year-old Wayne Gretzky signed with the Indianapolis Racers in 1978; however it certainly was newsworthy.

I saw him play once at Market Square Arena in downtown Indy; eight games into his career he was traded to Edmonton. I remember some people questioning whether he would really “make it” in the NHL. Some said that he was, “too small, too wiry and to slow” to be a force.

He got every ounce out of his ability and was so smart and could “read” everything in front of him better than anyone else..

Bobby Orr said that, “Gretzky passes the puck better than anyone else does.”  He had the ability to “roll with a check.”

How can you not have great admiration and respect for someone like that. Bill Virdon once told me that he felt that Dick Groat got more out of his ability than any other baseball player Virdon ever saw. Groat deserves credit for making himself an All-Star and winning an MVP Award. Gretzky may have made himself into the best player in NHL History.

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