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Hockey great, Wayne Gretzky, was born on born January 26, 1961 in Brantford, Ontario. Gretzky is a retired Canadian pro ice hockey player. He is currently part-owner, head of hockey operations and head coach of the National Hockey League (NHL) Phoenix Coyotes.
Wayne Gretzky honed his skills at a backyard rink and regularly played minor hockey at a level far above his peers. Despite his unimpressive stature, strength, and speed, Gretzky's intelligence and reading of the game were unrivaled. He was adept at dodging checks from opposing players, and he could consistently anticipate where the puck was going to be and execute the right move at the right time. Gretzky also became known for setting up behind the net, an area that was nicknamed "Gretzky's office" because of his skills there.
In 1978, Gretzky signed with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association (WHA), where he briefly played before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers. When the WHA folded, the Oilers joined the NHL, where he established many scoring records and led his team to four Stanley Cup Championships. His trade to the Los Angeles Kings had an immediate impact on the team's performance, leading them to the 1993 Cup finals, and is credited with popularizing hockey in the southern United States. Gretzky played briefly for the St. Louis Blues and finished his career with the New York Rangers. In his career, Gretzky captured nine Hart Trophies as the most valuable player, ten Art Ross Trophies for most points in a season, five Lady Byng Trophies for sportsmanship and performance, five Lester B. Pearson Awards, and two Conn Smythe Trophies as playoff MVP.
After his retirement in 1999, Gretzky was immediately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, being the last player to have the waiting period waived. He became Executive Director for the Canadian national men's hockey team during the 2002 Winter Olympics, where the team won a gold medal. In 2000 he became part owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, and following the 2004–05 NHL lockout he became their head coach.
Nicknamed "The Great One", Wayne Gretzky was called "the greatest player of all time" in Total Hockey: The Official Encyclopedia of the NHL. He is generally regarded as the best player in the history of the NHL, and has been called "the greatest hockey player ever" by many sportswriters, players and coaches. Upon his retirement on April 18, 1999, Gretzky held forty regular-season records, fifteen playoff records, and six All-Star records. He is the only NHL player to total over 200 points in one season—a feat he accomplished four times. In addition, he tallied over 100 points in 15 NHL seasons, 13 of them consecutively. Gretzky's #99 has been retired by all teams in the National Hockey League. He is one of only two athletes to have earned this honor from a major professional sport, the other being Major League Baseball's Jackie Robinson, who wore uniform #42.
After the World Hockey Association folded in 1979, the Edmonton Oilers and three other teams joined the NHL. Gretzky's success in the WHA carried over into the NHL, despite some critics suggesting he would flounder in what was considered the bigger, tougher, and more talented league.
The Oilers, like the other surviving WHA teams, were allowed to protect two goaltenders and two skaters from being reclaimed by the established NHL teams. However, they were allowed to use one of the skater's slots to protect Gretzky. Under normal circumstances, Gretzky would have been removed from the Oilers and placed in the pool for the NHL Entry Draft. The league decided to make an exception due to his importance to the success of the Oilers and the league at large.
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 colors were changed to silver and black, presaging the change in team jersey colors 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 CA.
In 1991, Gretzky purchased the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League with Bruce McNall and John Candy. 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 $500,000 US, later selling the card. It most recently sold for $2.8 million US.
As of May 2008, Gretzky's current business ventures include the "Wayne Gretzky's" restaurant in Toronto near the football stadium in downtown Toronto, opened in partnership with John Bitove in 1993. Gretzky is also a partner in First Team Sports, a maker of sports equipment and Worldwide Roller Hockey, Inc., an operator of roller hockey rinks. He has endorsed and launched a wide variety of products, from pillow cases to insurance.