On this day in 1999, Wayne Gretzky of the NY Rangers scored the last of his record 894 goals in the NHL. Nicknamed "The Great One," Gretzky is widely considered hockey's greatest player in history. To honor his historic last goal, here are 5 interesting facts you should know about The Great One...
His Jersey # 99 Is The Only Number Retired Across The Entire NHL League Usually, teams will only retire the numbers of their own stars following long, distinguished careers, which means that no one else on that team could ever wear that number again. In Gretzky's case, his infamous number 99 was retired league-wide at the 2000 All-Star Game because of his contributions to hockey. The only other sports player to have his number completely retired league-wide is legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson.
The Canadian Government Got Involved When Gretzky Was Traded
In 1988, just after another Stanley Cup win with the Oilers, Gretzky was traded to the LA Kings. This was a massive trade and one that did not sit well with Canadians. The trade was such a big deal that the Canadian government leaders demanded that Prime Minister Brian Mulroney block the trade from going through. However, there was nothing the government could do to stop the trade, which was ultimately approved by the NHL.
Two National Anthems Were Changed For Him Gretzky's last game in the NHL was played at Madison Square Garden on April 18, 1999. Though the game was between two American teams, both the American and Canadian National Anthems were played to honor Gretzky. But instead of the regular lyrics to the Canadian anthem, singer Bryan Adams sang “We’re gonna miss you Wayne Gretzky” instead of “We stand on guard for thee.” For the Star Spangled Banner, longtime anthem performer for the Rangers John Amirante sang “O’er the land of Wayne Gretzky” in place of “O’er the land of the free.”
He Is The Only NHL Player With Over 200 Points In One Season Points are awarded to players when they score a goal, as well as when they assist in a goal. Gretzky is the only NHL player to have scored over 200 points in a single season, an incredible achievement. And not only did he do that once, but he managed to accomplish that goal four seasons in a row in the early to mid-1980s. Gretzky ended his NHL career having accumulated a whopping 2,857 points.
An Unofficial Rule Was Named After Him
In the 1980s, the Edmonton Oilers — where Gretzky experienced his glory years in the NHL — were a force to be reckoned with. The team was so powerful, not just because of Gretzky, but also thanks to other powerhouse teammates like Mark Messier, and Paul Coffey. The team won four Stanley Cups within a five-year span. Part of that success was due to their on-ice command of four-on-four situations, where minor penalties given to both teams would put a player from each team in the penalty box. Because Gretzky and the Oilers were so good in small numbers on the ice, the NHL enacted the “Gretzky Rule,” forcing teams to play at full strength despite the called penalties. The rule has since been revoked, but lives on in spirit in overtime when teams play at four-on-four strength to potentially garner faster goals.