|Birth Day:||January 26, 1961|
|Birth Place:||Brantford, Canada|
|#4||Emma Gretzky||Children||$1 Million - $2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||17||Celebrity Family Member|
|#5||Paulina Gretzky||Daughter||$5 Million||N/A||32||Model|
|#6||Walter Gretzky||Father||$1 Million - $2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||82||Celebrity Family Member|
|#10||Tristan Gretzky||Son||$1 Million - $2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||20||Celebrity Family Member|
|#11||Janet Jones||Spouse||$100 Million||N/A||59||Actor|
|#12||River Jones Johnson||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#13||Tatum Gretzky Johnson||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Height||Weight||Hair Colour||Eye Colour||Blood Type||Tattoo(s)|
The rink in his backyard, which he honed his craft on, was called the Wally Coliseum.
Wayne Gretzky was born on January 26, 1961, in Brantford, Ontario, the son of Phyllis Leone (Hockin) and Walter Gretzky. The couple had married in 1960, and lived in an apartment in Brantford, where Walter worked for Bell Telephone Canada. The family moved into a house on Varadi Avenue in Brantford seven months after Wayne was born, chosen partly because its yard was flat enough to make an ice rink on every winter. Wayne was joined by a sister, Kim (born 1963), and brothers Keith, Glen and Brent. The family would regularly visit the farm of Wayne's grandparents, Tony and Mary, and watch Hockey Night in Canada together. By age two, Wayne was trying to score goals against Mary using a souvenir stick. The farm was where Wayne skated on ice for the first time, aged two years, 10 months.
By age 10, Gretzky had scored an astonishing 378 goals and 139 assists in just one season with the Brantford Nadrofsky Steelers. His play attracted media attention beyond his hometown of Brantford, including a profile by John Iaboni in the Toronto Telegram in October 1971. In the 1974 Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament, Gretzky scored 26 points playing for Brantford. By age 13, he had scored over 1,000 goals. His play attracted considerable negative attention from other players' parents, including those of his teammates, and he was often booed. According to Walter, the "capper" was being booed on "Brantford Day" at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens in February 1975.
In this, Gretzky added his considerable influence as the preeminent NHL star of his day to that of the Soviets, who had also developed a more team-style of play, and had successfully used it against the best NHL teams, beginning in the 1972 Summit Series. "The Soviets and Gretzky changed the NHL game", says Dryden. "Gretzky, the kid from Brantford with the Belarusian name, was the acceptable face of Soviet hockey. No Canadian kid wanted to play like Makarov or Larionov. They all wanted to play like Gretzky."
Gretzky learned much about hockey from his father on a backyard rink at his home. Walter Gretzky had been an outstanding Junior B hockey player. He cultivated a love of hockey in his sons and provided them with a backyard rink and drills to enhance their skills. On the backyard rink, nicknamed the "Wally Coliseum", winter was total hockey immersion with Walter as mentor-teacher as well as teammate. Walter's drills were his own invention, and were ahead of their time in Canada. Gretzky would later remark that the Soviet National Team's practice drills, which impressed Canada in 1972, had nothing new to offer him: "I'd been doing these drills since I was three. My Dad was very smart."
Despite his offensive statistics – scoring 132 points in 60 games in Junior B – two teams bypassed him in the 1977 Ontario Major Junior Hockey League draft of 16-year-olds. The Oshawa Generals picked Tom McCarthy first, and the Niagara Falls Flyers picked Steve Peters second overall. With the third pick, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds selected Gretzky, even though Walter Gretzky had told the team Wayne would not move to Sault Ste. Marie, a northern Ontario city that inflicts a heavy travelling schedule on its junior team. The Gretzkys made an arrangement with a local family they knew and Wayne did play for the Greyhounds, at age 16. It was with the Greyhounds that Gretzky first wore the number 99 on his jersey. He originally wanted to wear number 9—for his hockey hero Gordie Howe—but it was already being worn by teammate Brian Gualazzi. At coach Muzz MacPherson's suggestion, Gretzky settled on 99.
In 1978, the World Hockey Association (WHA) league was in competition with the established NHL. The NHL did not allow the signing of players under age 20, but the WHA had no rules regarding such signings. Several WHA teams courted Gretzky, notably the Indianapolis Racers and the Birmingham Bulls. Birmingham Bulls owner John F. Bassett wanted to confront the NHL by signing as many young and promising superstars as possible and saw Gretzky as the most promising young prospect. However, it was Racers owner Nelson Skalbania who, on June 12, 1978, signed 17-year-old Gretzky to a seven-year personal services contract worth US$1.75 million. Gretzky scored his first professional goal against Dave Dryden of the Edmonton Oilers in his fifth game, and his second goal four seconds later. Skalbania opted to have Gretzky sign a personal-services contract rather than a standard player contract in part because he knew a deal to take some WHA teams into the NHL was in the works. He also knew that the Racers could not hope to be included among those teams, and hoped to keep the Racers alive long enough to collect compensation from the surviving teams when the WHA dissolved, as well as any funds earned from selling the young star.
One of the highlights of Gretzky's season was his appearance in the 1979 WHA All-Star Game. The format was a three-game series between the WHA All-Stars and Dynamo Moscow played at Edmonton's Northlands Coliseum. The WHA All-Stars were coached by Jacques Demers, who put Gretzky on a line with his boyhood idol Gordie Howe and Howe's son, Mark. In game one, the line scored seven points, and the WHA All-Stars won by a score of 4–2. In game two, Gretzky and Mark Howe each scored a goal and Gordie Howe picked up an assist as the WHA won 4–2. The line did not score in the final game, but the WHA won by a score of 4–3.
After the World Hockey Association folded in 1979, the Edmonton Oilers and three other teams joined the NHL. Under the merger agreement the Oilers, like the other surviving WHA teams, were to be allowed to protect two goaltenders and two skaters from being reclaimed by the established NHL teams in the 1979 NHL Expansion Draft. The Oilers kept Gretzky on their roster, making him a "priority selection".
When he entered the league in 1979, critics opined that Gretzky was "too small, too wiry, and too slow to be a force in the [NHL]." His weight was 160 pounds (73 kg), compared to the NHL average of 189 pounds (86 kg) at that time. But that year, Gretzky tied for first place in scoring, and won the Hart Trophy for the league's most valuable player. In his second year in the league, weighing just 165 pounds, he broke the previous single-season scoring record, racking up 164 points. The next year (1981–82), at 170 pounds—still "a wisp compared to the average NHL player"—he set the all-time goal-scoring record, putting 92 pucks in the net. He weighed "about 170 pounds" for the better part of his career. He consistently scored last in strength tests among the Edmonton Oilers, bench pressing only 140 pounds (64 kg).
However, he had remarkable physical stamina. Like his hero, Gordie Howe, Gretzky possessed "an exceptional capacity to renew his energy resources quickly." In 1980, when an exercise physiologist tested the recuperative abilities of all of the Edmonton Oilers, Gretzky scored so high that the tester said he "thought the machine had broken." His stamina is also indicated by the fact that Gretzky often scored late in the game. In the year he scored his record 92 goals, 22 of them went in the net during the first period, 30 in the second—and 40 in the third.
During the 1981–82 season, Gretzky surpassed a record that had stood for 35 years: 50 goals in 50 games, first set by Maurice "Rocket" Richard during the 1944–45 NHL season and tied by Mike Bossy during the 1980–81 NHL season. Gretzky accomplished the feat in only 39 games. His 50th goal of the season came on December 30, 1981, in the final seconds of a 7–5 win against the Philadelphia Flyers and was his fifth of the game. Later that season, Gretzky broke Esposito's record for most goals in a season (76) on February 24, 1982, scoring three to help defeat the Buffalo Sabres 6–3. He ended the 1981–82 season with records of 92 goals, 120 assists, and 212 points in 80 games, becoming the only player in NHL history to break the two hundred-point mark. That year, Gretzky became the first hockey player and first Canadian to be named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. He was also named 1982 "Sportsman of the Year" by Sports Illustrated. The Canadian Press also named Gretzky Newsmaker of the Year in 1982.
Gretzky has made several TV appearances, including as a Dance Fever celebrity judge, and acted in a dramatic role alongside Victor Newman in The Young and the Restless in 1981. In 1984, he travelled to the Soviet Union to film a television program on Russian goaltender Vladislav Tretiak. Gretzky was a guest host of the American late night variety show Saturday Night Live in 1989. A fictional crime-fighting version of him served as one of the main characters in the cartoon ProStars in 1991. In December 2016, Gretzky appeared briefly in a cameo on a Christmas episode of The Simpsons as a winter character.
Between 1982 and 1985, the Edmonton Oilers averaged 423 goals a season, when no previous team had scored 400, and Gretzky on his own had averaged 207 points, when no player before had scored more than 152 in one year. Dryden wrote in his book The Game, "In the past, defenders and teams had learned to devise strategies to stop opponents with the puck. To stop them without it, that was interference. But now, if players without the puck skated just as hard as those with it, but faster, and dodged and darted to open ice just as determinedly, but more effectively, how did you shut them down?"
The Edmonton Oilers finished first overall in their last WHA regular season. The same success was not immediate when they joined the NHL, but within four seasons, the Oilers were competing for the Stanley Cup. The Oilers were a young, strong team featuring, in addition to Gretzky, future Hall of Famers including forwards Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and Jari Kurri; defenceman Paul Coffey; and goaltender Grant Fuhr. Gretzky was its captain from 1983 to 1988. In 1983, they made it to the Stanley Cup Final, only to be swept by the three-time defending champion New York Islanders. The following season, the Oilers met the Islanders in the Final again, this time winning the Stanley Cup, their first of five in seven years.
Gretzky was named an officer of the Order of Canada on June 25, 1984, for outstanding contribution to the sport of hockey. Since the Order ceremonies are always held during the hockey season, it took 13 years and 7 months—and two Governors General—before he could accept the honour. He was promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2009 "for his continued contributions to the world of hockey, notably as one of the best players of all time, as well as for his social engagement as a philanthropist, volunteer and role model for countless young people". Five times between 1981–82 and 1986–87, Gretzky led the NHL in goals scored. The Oilers also won the Stanley Cup with Gretzky in 1985, 1987 and 1988.
In June 1985, as part of a package of five rule changes to be implemented for the 1985–86 season, the NHL Board of Governors decided to introduce offsetting penalties, where neither team lost a man when coincidental penalties were called. The effect of calling offsetting penalties was felt immediately in the NHL, because during the early 1980s, when the Gretzky-era Oilers entered a four-on-four or three-on-three situation with an opponent, they frequently used the space on the ice to score one or more goals. Gretzky held a press conference one day after being awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy, criticizing the NHL for punishing teams and players who previously benefited. The rule change became known as the "Gretzky rule". The rule was reversed for the 1992–93 season.
Gretzky has owned or partnered in the ownership of two sports teams before becoming a partner in the Phoenix Coyotes. In 1985, Gretzky bought the Hull Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for $175,000 CA. During his ownership, the team's colours were changed to silver and black, presaging the change in team jersey colours when he played for the Los Angeles Kings. For the first season that Gretzky played in Los Angeles, the Kings had their training camp at the Olympiques' arena. Gretzky eventually sold the team in 1992 for $550,000 CAD.
Gretzky's career achievements include many awards and honours. He won a record nine Hart Trophies as the most valuable player in the NHL. Between 1981 and 1994, he won the Art Ross Trophy, presented to the NHL's season points leader, 10 times. Gretzky was named the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 1985 and 1988, receiving the Conn Smythe Trophy. In addition, he earned the Lester B. Pearson Award (now Ted Lindsay Award) on five occasions; the award is given to the NHL's "most outstanding player", as determined by National Hockey League Players' Association members. The Lady Byng Trophy, awarded for sportsmanship and performance, was presented to Gretzky five times between 1980 and 1999.
When the Oilers joined the NHL, Gretzky continued to play under his personal services contract with Oilers owner Peter Pocklington. This arrangement came under increased scrutiny by the mid-1980s, especially following reports that Pocklington had used the contract as collateral to help secure a $31 million loan with the Alberta government-owned Alberta Treasury Branches. Amid growing concern around the NHL that a financial institution might be able to lay claim to Gretzky's rights in the event the heavily leveraged Pocklington were to declare bankruptcy, as well as growing dissatisfaction on the part of Gretzky and his advisers, in 1987, Gretzky and Pocklington agreed to replace the personal services contract with a standard NHL contract.
Two hours after the Oilers won the Stanley Cup in 1988, Gretzky learned from his father that the Oilers were planning to deal him to another team. Walter Gretzky had known for months after having been tipped off by Skalbania, but kept the news from Wayne so as not to upset him. According to Walter, Wayne was being "shopped" to Los Angeles, Detroit, and Vancouver, and Pocklington needed money as his other business ventures were not doing well. At first, Gretzky did not want to leave Edmonton, but he later received a call while on his honeymoon from Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall, who asked permission to meet and discuss the deal. Gretzky informed McNall that his prerequisites for a deal to take place were that Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski join him as teammates in Los Angeles. Both McNall and Pocklington quickly agreed. After the details of the trade were finalized by the two owners, one final condition had to be met: Gretzky had to call Pocklington and request a trade. When Pocklington told Oilers general manager and head coach Sather about his plans to trade Gretzky to Los Angeles, Sather tried to stop the deal, but when he found out that Gretzky had been involved in the negotiations, he changed his attitude and requested Luc Robitaille in exchange. The Kings refused, instead offering Jimmy Carson.
On August 9, 1988, in a move that heralded significant change in the NHL, the Oilers traded Gretzky (along with McSorley and Krushelnyski) to the Kings for Carson, Martin Gélinas, $15 million in cash, and the Kings' first-round draft picks in 1989 (later traded to the New Jersey Devils, who used it to select Jason Miller), 1991, used to select (Martin Ručínský), and 1993, used to select (Nick Stajduhar). "The Trade", as it came to be known, upset Canadians to the extent that New Democratic Party House Leader Nelson Riis demanded the government block it, and Pocklington was burned in effigy outside Northlands Coliseum. Gretzky himself was considered a "traitor" by some Canadians for turning his back on his adopted hometown and his home country. His motivation was widely rumoured to be the furtherance of his wife's acting career.
While serving as a judge on Dance Fever, Gretzky met actress Janet Jones. According to Gretzky, Jones does not recall his being on the show. They met regularly after that, but did not become a couple until 1987 when they ran into each other at a Los Angeles Lakers game that Gretzky and Alan Thicke were attending. Gretzky proposed in January 1988, and they were married on July 16, 1988, in a lavish ceremony the Canadian press dubbed "The Royal Wedding". Broadcast live throughout Canada from Edmonton's St. Joseph's Basilica, members of the Fire Department acted as ceremonial guards. The event reportedly cost Gretzky over $1 million US.
He received a good deal of cover from burly Oiler defencemen Dave Semenko and Marty McSorley. The latter followed Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings in 1989, where he played the same policeman role for several more years. But Gretzky discouraged unfair hits in another way. "If a guy ran him, Wayne would embarrass that guy", said former Oiler Lee Fogolin. "He'd score six or seven points on him. I saw him do it night after night."
The Kings named Gretzky their alternate captain. He made an immediate impact on the ice, scoring on his first shot on goal in the first regular season game. The Kings got off to their best start ever, winning four straight en route to qualifying for the playoffs. Despite being underdogs against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Edmonton Oilers in the Smythe Division semifinals, Gretzky led the Kings to a shocking upset of his old squad, spearheading the Kings' return from a 3–1 series deficit to win the series 4–3. He was nervous Edmonton would greet him with boos, but they were eagerly waiting for him. For only the second time in his NHL career, Gretzky finished second in scoring, but narrowly edged the Pittsburgh Penguins' Mario Lemieux (who scored 199 points) for the Hart Trophy as MVP. In 1990, the Associated Press named Gretzky Male Athlete of the Decade.
The 1991 Canada Cup marked the last time the tournament was played under the "Canada Cup" moniker. Gretzky led the tournament for the fourth and final time with 12 points in seven games. He did not, however, compete in the final against the United States due to a back injury. Canada nevertheless won in two games by scores of 4–1 and 4–2. Five years later, the tournament was revived and renamed the World Cup in 1996. It marked the first time Gretzky did not finish as the tournament's leading scorer with seven points in eight games for fourth overall.
In 1991, Bruce McNall purchased the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL) with Gretzky and John Candy as minority owners. The club won the Grey Cup championship in the first year of the partnership, but struggled in the two following seasons, and the partnership sold the team before the 1994 season. Only McNall's name was engraved on the Grey Cup as team owner, but in November 2007, the CFL corrected the oversight, adding Gretzky's and Candy's names. In 1992, Gretzky and McNall partnered in an investment to buy a rare Honus Wagner T206 cigarette card for $451,000 US, later selling the card. It most recently sold for $2.8 million US. The pair also owned Thoroughbred race horses; one of them, Saumarez, won France's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 1990. Gretzky was a board member and executive officer of the Hespeler Hockey Company. Gretzky's restaurant is now closed in Toronto.
The next season, Gretzky broke Gordie Howe's career goal-scoring record of 801, and won the scoring title, but the team began a long slide, and despite numerous player and coaching moves, they failed to qualify for the playoffs again until 1998. After the financially troubled McNall was forced to sell the Kings in 1994, Gretzky's relationship with the Kings' new owners grew strained. Under both McNall and the new ownership group, the team was fiscally unstable, to the point that paychecks to players bounced. Finally, in early 1996, Gretzky requested a trade. During the 1994–95 NHL lock-out, Gretzky and some friends (including Mark Messier, Marty McSorley, Brett Hull and Steve Yzerman) formed the Ninety Nine All Stars Tour and played eight exhibition games in various countries.
On February 27, 1996, Gretzky joined the St. Louis Blues in a trade for Patrice Tardif, Roman Vopat, Craig Johnson and two draft picks (Peter Hogan and Matt Zultek). He partially orchestrated the trade after reports surfaced that he was unhappy in Los Angeles. At the time of the trade, the Blues and New York Rangers emerged as front-runners, but the Blues met his salary demands. Gretzky was immediately named the team's captain. He scored 37 points in 31 games for the team in the regular season and the playoffs, and the Blues came within one game of the Conference Finals. However, the chemistry everyone expected with winger Brett Hull never developed, and head coach Mike Keenan publicly criticized him. Gretzky rejected a three-year deal worth $15 million with the Blues, and on July 21, signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent, rejoining longtime Oilers teammate Mark Messier for a two-year, $8 million (plus incentives) contract.
Gretzky ended his professional playing career with the New York Rangers, where he played his final three seasons and helped the team reach the Eastern Conference Finals in 1997. The Rangers were defeated in the Conference Finals in five games by the Philadelphia Flyers, despite Gretzky leading the Rangers in the playoffs with 10 goals and 10 assists. For the first time in his NHL career, Gretzky was not named captain, although he briefly wore the captain's "C" in 1998 when captain Brian Leetch was injured and out of the line-up. After the 1996–97 season, Mark Messier signed a free agent contract with the Vancouver Canucks, ending the brief reunion of Messier and Gretzky after just one season. The Rangers did not return to the playoffs until 2006, well after Gretzky retired. Along with Jaromir Jagr, he topped the NHL in 1997–98 with 67 assists. It was the 16th time in 19 seasons that Gretzky earned at least a share of the league lead in the statistic.
In 1997, prior to his retirement, The Hockey News named a committee of 50 hockey experts (former NHL players, past and present writers, broadcasters, coaches and hockey executives) to select and rank the 50 greatest players in NHL history. The experts voted Gretzky number one. Gretzky said he would have voted Bobby Orr or Gordie Howe as the best of all time.
Leading up to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, it was announced that NHL players would be eligible to play for the first time. Gretzky was named to the club on November 29, 1997. However, Gretzky was passed over for the captaincy, along with several other Canadian veterans including Steve Yzerman and Ray Bourque in favour of the younger Eric Lindros. Expectations were high for the Canadian team, but the team lost to the Czech Republic in the semi-finals. The game went to a shootout with a 1–1 tie after overtime, but Gretzky was controversially not selected by coach Marc Crawford as one of the five shooters, all of whom failed to score. Team Canada then lost the bronze medal game 3–2 to Finland to finish without a medal. The Olympics marked Gretzky's eighth and final international appearance, finishing with four assists in six games. He retired from international play holding the records for most goals (20), most assists (28), and most overall points (48) in best-on-best hockey.
The 1998–99 season was his last as a professional player. He reached one milestone in this last season, breaking the professional total (regular season and playoffs) goal-scoring record of 1,071, which had been held by Gordie Howe. Gretzky was having difficulty scoring this season and finished with only nine goals, contributing to this being the only season in which he failed to average at least a point per game, but his last goal brought his scoring total for his combined NHL/WHA career to 1,072, one more than Howe. As the season wound down, there was media speculation that Gretzky would retire, but he refused to announce his retirement. His last NHL game in Canada was on April 15, 1999, a 2–2 tie with the Ottawa Senators and the Rangers' second-to-last game of the season. Following the contest, in a departure from the usual three stars announcement, Gretzky was awarded all three stars. Upon returning to New York, Gretzky announced he would retire after the Rangers' last game of the season.
The final game of Gretzky's career was a 2–1 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 18, 1999, in Madison Square Garden. Although the game involved two American teams, both national anthems were played, with the lyrics slightly adjusted to accommodate Gretzky's departure. In place of the lyrics "O Canada, we stand on guard for thee", Bryan Adams ad-libbed, "We're going to miss you, Wayne Gretzky". "The Star-Spangled Banner", as sung by John Amirante, was altered to include the words "in the land of Wayne Gretzky". Gretzky ended his career with a final point, assisting on the lone New York goal scored by Brian Leetch. At the time of his retirement, Gretzky was the second-to-last WHA player still active in professional hockey. Mark Messier, who attended the game along with other representatives of the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty, was the last.
Gretzky was named honorary chairman of the Open Ice Summit, held in August 1999 to discuss ways to improve Canadian ice hockey. He stressed the need to play and practice hockey for the love of the game, and felt that skill was more important to develop than talent and that Canada had the potential to be world leaders in skill development.
Gretzky was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 22, 1999, becoming the tenth player to bypass the three-year waiting period. The Hall of Fame then announced that he would be the last player to do so. He was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2000. In addition, Gretzky's jersey number 99 was retired league-wide at the 2000 NHL All-Star Game, a decision inspired by Major League Baseball's retirement of the number 42 worn by Jackie Robinson. In October 1999, Edmonton honoured Gretzky by renaming one of Edmonton's busiest freeways, Capilano Drive – which passes by Northlands Coliseum – to Wayne Gretzky Drive. Also in Edmonton, the local transit authority assigned a rush-hour bus route numbered No. 99 which also runs on Wayne Gretzky Drive for its commute.
Almost immediately after retirement, several NHL teams approached him about an ownership role. In May 2000, he agreed to buy a 10% stake in the Phoenix Coyotes in a partnership with majority owner Steve Ellman, taking on the roles of alternate governor, managing partner and head of hockey operations. The Coyotes were in the process of being sold and Ellman convinced Gretzky to come on board, averting a potential move to Portland, Oregon. The sale was not completed until the following year, on February 15, 2001, after two missed deadlines while securing financing and partners before Ellman and Gretzky could take over. Trucking magnate and Arizona Diamondbacks part-owner Jerry Moyes was added to the partnership. Gretzky convinced his long-time agent Michael Barnett to join the team as its General Manager.
In 2002, the Kings held a jersey retirement ceremony and erected a life-sized statue of Gretzky outside the Staples Center; the ceremony was delayed until then so that Bruce McNall, who had recently finished a prison sentence, could attend. Also in 2002, Gretzky received a star on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto. His hometown of Brantford, Ontario, renamed Park Road North to "Wayne Gretzky Parkway" as well as renaming the North Park Recreation Centre to The Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre. Brantford further inducted Gretzky into its "Walk of Fame" in 2004. On May 10, 2010, he was awarded The Ambassador Award of Excellence by the LA Sports & Entertainment Commission. Gretzky was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players in 2017.
Although Gretzky had previously stated he would not participate in any "old-timers exhibition games", on November 22, 2003, he took to the ice to help celebrate the Edmonton Oilers' 25th anniversary as an NHL team. The Heritage Classic, held at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, was the first regular season NHL game to be played outdoors. It was preceded by the Mega Stars game, which featured Gretzky and many of his Oiler Dynasty teammates against a group of retired Montreal Canadiens players (whose likes included Claude Lemieux, Guy Lafleur and others). Despite frigid temperatures, the crowd numbered 57,167, with an additional several million watching the game on television. The Edmonton alumni won the Megastars game 2–0, while Montreal went on to win the regular season game held later that day, 4–3.
In 2003, while not criticizing Canada for declining to participate in the invasion of Iraq, Gretzky praised President of the United States George W. Bush and his handling of the conflict, saying: "the President of the United States is a great leader, I happen to think he's a wonderful man and if he believes what he's doing is right, I back him 100 per cent."
In 2005, rumours began circulating that Gretzky was about to name himself head coach of the Coyotes, but were denied by Gretzky and the team. Ultimately, Gretzky agreed to become head coach on August 8, 2005. Gretzky made his coaching debut on October 5, and won his first game on October 8 against the Minnesota Wild. He took an indefinite leave of absence on December 17 to be with his ill mother. Phyllis Gretzky died of lung cancer on December 19. Gretzky resumed his head-coaching duties on December 28. The Coyotes' record at the end of the 2005–06 season was 38–39–5, a 16-win improvement over 2003–04; they were 36–36–5 in games Gretzky coached.
In 2006, Moyes became majority owner of the team. There was uncertainty about Gretzky's role until it was announced on May 31, 2006 that he had agreed to a five-year contract to remain head coach. The Coyotes' performance declined in 2006–07, as the team ended the season 15th in their conference. During Gretzky's coaching tenure, the Coyotes did not reach the postseason, and their best finish in the Western Conference standings was 12th.
Wayne Gretzky's uncle, Al Gretzky, ran as a Conservative candidate in London West in the 2006 federal election and for the libertarian Freedom Party of Ontario in the 2013 provincial by-election for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. He was unsuccessful both times.
On May 5, 2009, the Coyotes' holding company, Dewey Ranch Hockey LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. An ownership dispute involving Research in Motion's Jim Balsillie (with the intention of relocating the team) and the NHL itself arose, which eventually ended up in court. Gretzky did not attend the Coyotes' training camp, leaving associate head coach Ulf Samuelsson in charge, due to an uncertain contractual status with the club, whose bankruptcy hearings were continuing. Bidders for the club had indicated that Gretzky would no longer be associated with the team after it emerged from bankruptcy, and on September 24, 2009, Gretzky stepped down as head coach and head of hockey operations of the Coyotes. Gretzky's final head coaching record was 143–161–24.
Gretzky's appeal as a product endorser far surpassed that of other hockey players of his era. By 1995, he was among the five highest-paid athlete endorsers in North America, with deals from The Coca-Cola Company, Domino's Pizza, Sharp Corporation, and Upper Deck Company among others. Forbes estimates that Gretzky made US$93.8 million from 1990 to 1998. He has endorsed and launched a wide variety of products, from pillow cases to insurance. Gretzky is a partner in First Team Sports, a maker of sports equipment and Worldwide Roller Hockey, Inc., an operator of roller hockey rinks. The video game brand EA Sports included Gretzky in its 2010 title NHL Slapshot, and he had previously been an endorser for the 989 Sports games Gretzky NHL 2005 and Gretzky NHL 2006. Gretzky also made an appearance on the music video for Nickelback's "Rockstar".
He also had strong general athletic skills. Growing up, he was a competitive runner and also batted .492 for the Junior Intercounty Baseball League's Brantford CKCP Braves in the summer of 1980. As a result, he was offered a contract by the Toronto Blue Jays. History repeated itself in June 2011, when Gretzky's 17-year-old son, Trevor, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. Trevor signed with the Cubs the next month. Gretzky also excelled at box lacrosse, which he played during the summer. At age ten, after scoring 196 goals in his hockey league, he scored 158 goals in lacrosse.
He and Jones have five children: Paulina, Ty, Trevor, Tristan, and Emma. Paulina and golfer Dustin Johnson announced their engagement on August 18, 2013. Ty played hockey at Shattuck-Saint Mary's, but quit the sport, and attended Arizona State University. Trevor is a former minor league baseball player.
During the 2015 Canadian federal election campaign, Gretzky endorsed the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and was featured at a campaign rally praising Harper by calling him "wonderful to the country." As a non-resident, Gretzky came under some criticism for this endorsement. In 2014, Gretzky praised Harper at a United for Ukraine Gala event in Toronto calling him "one of the greatest prime ministers ever". Earlier in 2015, Gretzky endorsed Patrick Brown during his successful campaign for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
Thirteen years later, on December 31, 2016, Gretzky participated in the Winter Classic Alumni Game, which was held between teams of former Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues players two days before the 2017 Winter Classic. Gretzky represented the Blues in the game, which his team won 8–7.
In October 2016, Gretzky returned to the Oilers as a partner and vice-chairman of the team's parent company, Oilers Entertainment Group, to work closely with owner Daryl Katz and Oilers Entertainment Group CEO Bob Nicholson on the business side of the Oilers' operation.
In 2017 as part-owner with Andrew Peller Ltd., Gretzky opened a winery and distillery bearing the name of Wayne Gretzky Estates in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, and with products labelled by the trademark, No. 99. Since 1993, Gretzky and a business partner have operated the Wayne Gretzky's restaurant near the Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto. Gretzky has other restaurants opened in 2016 at the Edmonton International Airport and named No. 99 Gretzky's Wine & Whisky, and in 2018 called Studio 99 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.
Currently, Wayne Gretzky is 60 years, 11 months and 23 days old. Wayne Gretzky will celebrate 61st birthday on a Wednesday 26th of January 2022.
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