Wayne Gretzky just turned 60 years old. Sweet: an excuse to talk about his dominance again.
Full disclosure: I’m about the biggest Wayne Gretzky apologist you’ll find, a fan of video-game dominance, a fierce defender of his status as the greatest hockey player of all-time. What stands out to me most about Wayne is how much he lapped his competition. Forget the “Connor McDavid could beat Wayne Gretzky 1-on-1” or “Goalies were so inferior back then” arguments. If scoring was that easy in the 1980s, why did no one else approach what Wayne did?
He won his 10 scoring titles by an average of 49 points. He won eight consecutive Hart Trophies as league MVP. If he never scored a single goal, he’d still easily be the NHL’s all-time leader in points. Picture Barry Bonds hitting 90 homers, not 73, with a .420 batting average and driving in 200 runs per season – for seven or eight years in a row. That’s how absurd No. 99’s brilliance was relative to his own peers.
Gretzky is the most dominant athlete in the history of major pro team sports. So let’s celebrate a few of the most hilariously jaw-dropping statistics to further illustrate what he accomplished in the NHL from 1979-80 through 1998-99.
Gretzky won the scoring title by more than 70 points – six times.
The past six NHL scoring races were decided by a combined 60 points. Only one non-Gretzky player has even won the scoring race by more than 30 points. That was Mario Lemieux by 31 points in 1988-89. Gordie Howe deserves a shout-out for winning it by 25 points in a 70-game schedule in 1952-53.
To deliberately repeat myself, one other player has ever won the Art Ross by more than 30 points – and Gretzky won it by more than 70 points six times and by an average margin of 49 points. LOL. Gretzky’s biggest margin came in 1983-84 when he bested teammate Paul Coffey by 79 points.
If Gretzky never scored a goal, he still would’ve recorded 11 straight 100-point seasons and won four scoring titles.
A no-goal Gretzky would still have the most 100-point seasons of all-time, and he’d be tied for the fifth-most scoring titles.
Gretzky won eight consecutive MVPs at one point. In the NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB, no other player has won more than four consecutive MVPs.
Here’s another big weapon for the argument that Gretzky was the greatest player ever relative to what he did against his own peers. Eight MVPs in a row? No NBA player has won more than three consecutive MVPs. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird did it. Brett Favre has the NFL record at three straight MVPs. Bonds won four straight in baseball.
If you chopped Gretzky’s entire career numbers in half, he’d still be 17th all-time in points.
You’d get a stat line of 447 goals, 982 assists and 1,429 points. Gretzky would sit 17th in all-time scoring between Teemu Selanne and Bryan Trottier. If you halved Gretzky’s stats, he’d still be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Only five players have recorded 150 or more points in a season. Gretzky did it nine times, a.k.a. in 45 percent of his seasons.
Only Gretzky and Lemieux have even topped 155 points in a season.
Gretzky is the only player to record a 200-point season, and he did it four times.
Lemieux is the only player other than Gretzky to even reach 170 points in a season, and Lemieux did it just once with 199 points in 1988-89, albeit his pace in his legendary 1992-93 season cleared 200. When Gretzky set the single-season record with 215 points in 1984-85, beating his own record of 212 from four years earlier, he bested Phil Esposito’s previous high watermark of 152 by 41.4 percent. It would be the equivalent of beating Eric Dickerson’s NFL rushing record of 2,105 with a season of 2,977 yards. Let that sink in for a second. Again: LOL.
In a two-season stretch from 1983-84 to 1984-85, Gretzky scored 23 shorthanded goals.
Only 52 players have more than 23 career shorties, and Gretzky has 73 in total, the most all-time.
Gretzky led the league in assists in each of his first 13 seasons, and 16 times overall – 80 percent of his seasons.
You’d think being the greatest player of all-time and leading the league in assists in 16 of 20 seasons would be enough to get a Wayne Gretzky Trophy named after you, awarded to the NHL’s assists leader annually. But nope. Still no movement there the last time I checked in with the NHL. No only did Gretzky win 13 straight assist titles, but he led the league in assists in his age-36 and age-37 campaigns before retiring in his age-38 season.
If you only counted Gretzky’s seasons after turning 30, he’d still rank fourth all-time in points per game.
Gretzky turned 30 in January of the 1990-91 season. From that campaign onward he picked up 878 points in 640 games, averaging 1.37 points per game. That would put Only-After-Age-30 Gretzky behind only Lemieux, Bobby Orr and Mike Bossy for career points per game.
Gretzky could’ve ended his career with a 1,370-game pointless streak and still would’ve been a point-per-game player.
I can’t take credit for this stat. A Bardown article a couple years ago pointed it out. But it’s amazing. He could go more than 16 years without a point and still average a point per game in his career.