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WAYNE GRETZKY

Dec. 12, 2011
Dec. 12, 2011

Table of Contents
Dec. 12, 2011

LEADING OFF
GOLF PLUS
  • How big was Tiger's victory at the Chevron? Can Luke Donald hang on to No. 1? Who's most likely to become the top American? How do the major venues rate, and who will win the four championships?

  • Great majors, a new No. 1, LPGA dominance, an old school fight for the money title and the rediscovery of a vintage track too tough to die made 2011 a terrific year in golf

  • The game will long remember Europe's leading light, a pioneering woman and a television innovator

Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR / SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR
SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR, 1981
SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR, 1976
  • A couple of recent divorces have dusted up the Girl Next Door, but as always she will never sit back and accept defeat

SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR, 1982
  • A man can gather plenty of insight on the road from boy wonder to senior statesman for the sport he loves

PRO FOOTBALL
  • The Patriots' defense, built from spare parts, castoffs and converted receivers, ranks dead last in the NFL, and yet New England is once again cruising to the playoffs. The real test is yet to come

SPECIAL REPORT
COLLEGE FOOTBALL
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
BASEBALL
  • In 136 major league seasons, there's never been a more dizzyingly dramatic day than Sept. 28, 2011. The Red Sox and the Braves may disagree, but for everyone else it's a date that will live in ecstasy

PRO HOCKEY
  • With the club slumping and captain Alex Ovechkin seemingly checked out, the Capitals dumped their coach. Now one of the NHL's superstars isn't just struggling to rediscover his game, but he's also trying to shed an ugly label

  • The NHL's coaching carousel began to go 'round in earnest last week, with three jobs turning over in a four-day stretch. Besides the departure of Bruce Boudreau and the arrival of Dale Hunter in Washington, D.C., here's the lowdown on what went wrong and what to expect from here on in

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
WALTER IOOSS JR.
Departments

WAYNE GRETZKY

A man can gather plenty of insight on the road from boy wonder to senior statesman for the sport he loves

An hour after playing 18 holes on the golf course near his house in Westlake Village, Calif., Wayne Gretzky is decked out in a suit and tie, always prepared to spread the gospel of his game. Though he hasn't had an official connection to the NHL since his tenure as coach and part owner of the Phoenix Coyotes ended in 2009, he is in many ways still the face of the sport. At 50, hockey's greatest player and ambassador is still on his game, with neither a hair nor a word out of place. "Everything I have I owe to the game of hockey," he says, in a familiar refrain. "I never forget it."

This is an article from the Dec. 12, 2011 issue

He is still revered in Edmonton, where bus route number 99 runs past Wayne Gretzky Drive, but he also owns a restaurant in Toronto, runs a hockey fantasy camp in Las Vegas and lit the cauldron at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Some of the proceeds from his Ontario winery support his foundation that promotes youth hockey. One of his vintages, a Shiraz-Cabernet blend, has won three gold medals at the Ontario Wine Awards.

Wayne and his wife, Janet, have five children, ages eight to 22. Their middle child, Trevor, 19, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs last June and will play outfield in their minor league system next year.

On being named Sportsman of the Year: "I remember thinking, Wow, I made it, this is pretty cool. So many athletes think about championships and being on winning teams. That's what they should be taught. But being presented that trophy was one of the greatest honors I've ever had. It was one of those awards that I thought, Wow, a hockey player or a guy living in Canada could never win this."

On when he knew he could be an elite player: "Going to the World Junior Championships when I was 16 and playing for Team Canada. And I only made the team because our top two centermen were injured. Once I played in that tournament, that's when I said to everyone, You know what, if I can play against the best 19- and 20-year-olds in the world, I'm going to be a professional hockey player."

On his legacy: "I'm always most proud of when people say, 'I used to love how hard you worked.' I was telling my boys the other day that you know, the greatest athletes in the world have a lot of bad games. The difference is that the greatest athletes, when they have bad games, are still as good or better than the other guys because they work so hard."

On today's game: "There's a little bit less creativity than we had in the '80s. Everything's more X and O now. It's more defined what each player's role is. But the game is better because the players are better athletes. These guys are fast, they all shoot the puck, they have great reflexes."

On his proudest moments off the ice: "When they asked me to light the Olympic flame, I was so excited and so proud because there were so many people they could have chosen. In my life I've met so many wonderful people and had an opportunity to be involved in charitable work. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind is in my hometown, so I've done a lot of work with blind kids. Because of the NHL, I've had a chance to be a part of helping a lot of people."

On playing versus coaching: "Coaching is wonderful. Would I ever do it again? I don't think so. I loved doing it when I did it. But life goes on. The difference is when you get ready for a game as a player, you get ready yourself. You mentally prepare, you physically get ready, you go through things, what you're going to do. When you're coaching, you've got to get 20 guys to be thinking the exact same way. And every guy doesn't think that way. Every athlete is different."

On the joy of free time: "Because of my job, there were a lot of things I didn't get an opportunity to do. I can go to my kids' school plays, pick them up at school, watch Little League games. I'm around more. My life is way more relaxing now. In hockey it's about winning and losing. It's peaks and valleys. There's no in-between. And now I don't have that. My peaks and valleys are if I shoot 82 or I shoot 88. Is that going to change the world? No. I just have to enjoy myself."

On the future: "I don't know. Maybe my son will make the Cubs. And if something comes along, I'll be back in the NHL. Right now it's not the right time for me. Right now I'm really enjoying being a fan. It's a great game. One day hopefully I'll be back."

PHOTOPhotograph by ROBERT BECKGREAT GUNS Gretzky stunned NHL statisticians in 1981--82: scoring 50 goals in his first 39 games and becoming the only player to ever top 200 points in a season.PHOTOPAUL J. BERESWILL (ABOVE)[See caption above]