When he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999, Wayne Gretzky said, “In 10 years, players will be better than I was.”
More than a decade later, that prediction represents one of the few times in life Gretzky didn’t get it right. Virtually all of the dozens of NHL records The Great One set over his 20-year career remain intact, while most, if not every NHLer speaks his name in hushed tones.
In honor of Gretzky – who turns 50 today – here are his top 10 hockey achievements. (For more on his career, be sure to pick up the Jan. 24 edition of The Hockey News magazine.)
10. As a 4-foot-10, 170-pound, novice player in his hometown of Brantford, Ont., Gretzky amasses 378 goals and 517 points for the Brantford Nadrofsky Steelers.
9. In 1977-78 as a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Gretzky sets the Ontario League’s single-season record for goals by a 16-year-old with 70. (The record stood until 2006-07, when John Tavares scored 72 for the Oshawa Generals.)
8. On April 2, 1980, at the age of 19 years, two months and seven days, Gretzky nets his 50th goal – making him the youngest player in NHL history to hit the half-hundred mark.
7. As a 23-year-old, Gretzky hits the 1,000-point mark in only his sixth NHL season.
6. In what he called the greatest single game of his career, Gretzky records a hat trick and adds an assist for good measure in his Kings’ 5-4 victory over Toronto in Game 7 of the 1993 Campbell Conference final.
5. On March 29, 1999, Gretzky scores the final goal of his career against the New York Islanders; the goal was his 1,072nd WHA/NHL goal (regular season and playoffs), breaking Gordie Howe’s record of 1,071.
4. In April of 1986, Gretzky records his 215th point of the regular season – his highest career total and the fourth time he broke the 200-point mark – to set an NHL record that remains to this day.
3. In a February, 1982 game against Buffalo, Gretzky scores his 77th goal of the season to break Phil Esposito’s single-season record; he finishes the season with a career-best (and still NHL-record) 92 goals in 80 games.
2. At age 29, Gretzky becomes the only player in league history to reach the 2,000-point plateau by notching an assist in an Oct. 26, 1990 game. When he retires nine years later with 2,857 points in 1,487 career games, he will have 970 more points than the next-highest scorer (Mark Messier, with 1,887 in 1,756 games).
1. On Dec. 30, 1981, Gretzky scores five goals against Philadelphia; the fifth was his 50th of the season, in just his 39th game, obliterating the previous NHL record of 50 goals in 50 games (first set by Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard in 1944-45 and equaled by Mike Bossy in 1980-81).
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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