If in case you have adopted the NHL at any level within the final 4 many years, you understand the identify Wayne Gretzky. The Nice One’s affect on the sport of hockey is immeasurable, and his legend solely continues to develop with every passing season. Though I used to be born shortly after his glory years with the Edmonton Oilers within the 1980s, I’m lucky to recollect the ultimate seasons of Gretzky’s illustrious profession.
Twenty years in the past, Gretzky hung up his skates for the ultimate time. Gretzky left the hockey world with a lifetime of reminiscences as a participant, however he’s additionally had some nice moments since 1999. Listed here are 4 of Gretzky’s most memorable moments since retiring.
Oilers Retire Gretzky’s Jersey
Simply months after Gretzky stated farewell to the NHL, the Oilers retired his legendary No. 99 jersey previous to their 1999-00 season opener. The night started with Gretzky waving to Oilers followers from the mattress of a Ford truck because it slowly drove across the ice floor of the Skyreach Centre whereas a music titled “Recollections Will Final Endlessly” by his good friend and Edmonton-born recording artist, Tim Feehan, performed over the audio system.
Gretzky was then joined by his household and former Oilers teammates Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and the late Dave Semenko at centre ice the place he was offered with a portray of himself from his glory days on behalf of the Oilers group titled “As soon as an Oiler, all the time an Oiler”.
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In 9 NHL seasons with the Oilers, Gretzky received 4 Stanley Cups as workforce captain, scored 1,669 factors and set an astonishing 49 league data. “We simply got here out right here and did our enterprise as a result of it was a ardour we had,” stated Gretzky throughout his retirement speech. “We have been embraced by a neighborhood that all of us fell in love with, and that’s why everybody who performed for the Oilers all the time calls Edmonton dwelling.”
In his speech, Oilers’ legendary play-by-play announcer Rod Phillips was dropped at tears saying a line he stated many instances through the 1980s. “Girls and gentleman, we’ll now say these phrases for the final time ever on this constructing: Tonight’s first star, No. 99 Wayne Gretzky.”
Previous to elevating his No.99 banner to the rafters of the Skyreach Centre, Gretzky was given a duplicate banner from his longtime good friend and Oilers locker room attendant Joey Moss.
“As emotional because it was, I couldn’t assist however stand there and smile, pondering over all of the fantastic instances that I had taking part in and residing [in Edmonton],” Gretzky instructed the Related Press following his banner night time. “I suppose it’s solely becoming that they’re parking [my banner] behind that web.”
Canada Ends 50-12 months Gold Medal Drought
Gretzky was named the manager director of the Canadian males’s ice hockey workforce for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake Metropolis, Utah. Canada entered the Video games because the overwhelming favourites, however posted a disappointing 1-1-1 file within the preliminary spherical. Following a Three-Three tie with the Czech Republic, the place Roman Hamrlik took low-cost pictures on Ryan Smyth and Theoren Fleury, Gretzky delivered his now-famous rant concerning the unfair criticism towards Crew Canada.
“Proper now it’s comical to hearken to issues being stated [about Team Canada],” stated Gretzky throughout his press convention. “It nearly sickens my abdomen to show the TV on as a result of I’m such a proud Canadian and such a fan of our recreation. I’m very pleased with all of the gamers in our locker room. And it makes me in poor health to listen to a few of the issues which are being stated about us.
“What’s actually annoying to me, is within the 1970s we went by means of this complete factor about hooliganism. If we’d have accomplished what they did tonight, it might be an enormous story. I feel [Hamrlik] must be suspended for the remainder of the match. If a Canadian participant did it, it might be an enormous story. However a Czech participant did it, so it’s okay. I simply don’t perceive it.”
24 Feb 2002: Theo Fleury #74 (Al Bello/Getty Photos)
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Gretzky’s passionate presser was a turning level for the Canadian squad on the Video games. After pulling out a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Finland within the quarterfinals, Canada simply defeated Belarus 7-1 within the semifinals to advance to the gold medal recreation towards the host People. Crew Canada went on to beat Crew USA 5-2 because of the terrific play of captain Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman, Jarome Iginla and Martin Brodeur in objective, to say its first gold medal in males’s ice hockey since 1952.
“I suppose to a degree, folks nonetheless checked out Wayne Gretzky as a hockey participant,” stated Gretzky on the Final Gretzky DVD. “I felt like after the Czech recreation, I wanted to step ahead and defend our workforce and present folks I’m not a hockey participant anymore. That was an enormous step for me that night time.”
In 2003, then-Oilers basic supervisor Kevin Lowe began planning a spectacular occasion at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium known as the Heritage Traditional. Lowe needed Edmonton to host the first-ever out of doors common season NHL recreation and alumni recreation (dubbed the Mega-Stars Sport) in November between the Oilers and Montreal Canadiens.
Clearly, no Oilers alumni recreation could be full with out The Nice One. Gretzky, nevertheless, had sworn off old-timers video games since retiring. However he felt this was a recreation he needed to play in.
“I actually don’t imagine in old-timers hockey,” stated Gretzky on the CBC’s Life and Instances biography program. “I feel folks’s reminiscences of gamers and athletes are that of when they’re profitable. And as a fan I by no means thought it was one thing I might wish to do or watch. However I actually felt like I had a accountability to the Oilers and town of Edmonton. And extra importantly, I needed my youngsters to see me play in an Oilers uniform.
“I feel it was even larger and higher than the NHL, town of Edmonton, and the Oilers anticipated it to be. It was actually one thing particular. And in the event that they attempt to do [alumni games] once more, it’s simply not going to be the identical. It is likely to be good, however it’s by no means going to be like that recreation in November in Edmonton.”
Whereas Gretzky didn’t rating a objective, or file an help within the 2-Zero victory for the Oilers Mega-Stars, the followers at Commonwealth Stadium roared every time he carried the puck up ice. The then-42-year-old Hockey Corridor of Fame member arrange his teammates for a number of high quality scoring probabilities from his acquainted spot behind the web regardless of the intense chilly.
Lowe believes the Heritage Traditional supplied Gretzky extra than simply a possibility to meet up with previous mates and placed on the Oilers jersey once more; it introduced him again to his roots as a child rising up in small-town Ontario within the 1960s.
“I feel for Wayne, the Heritage Traditional represented hockey in its easiest, purest type,” stated Lowe on the CBC’s Life and Instances. “Him skating at his grandmother’s farm and him skating at the back of Walter and Phyllis’ home in Brantford. That’s what it meant to him, and it meant that to everybody concerned.”
Gretzky Carries the Torch
Main as much as the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the id of the ultimate torchbearer wasn’t revealed till the day of the opening ceremony. Ultimately, Gretzky was chosen to hold the torch. With hockey being such an necessary a part of Canada’s cultural cloth, there was no another becoming to hold the torch than the best hockey participant who ever lived.
Gretzky, who represented Canada eight instances on the worldwide stage between 1978 and 1998, was one in every of 4 legendary Canadian athletes chosen to gentle the Olympic cauldron at BC Place. The Nice One was joined by gold medal-winning alpine skier Nancy Greene, gold medal-winning velocity skater Catriona Le Might Doan and former NBA most dear participant Steve Nash for the once-in-a-lifetime honour.
Then, Gretzky made the 2 kilometer journey with the torch at the back of a truck to gentle the everlasting cauldron that sits inside a public plaza over the Vancouver Conference Centre. Whereas main Crew Canada to gold within the 1987 Canada Cup doubtless stays his biggest achievement in worldwide hockey, carrying the torch was certainly one in every of his proudest moments as a Canadian.