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Happy 60th Birthday, Wayne Gretzky! Looking back at the legendary career and life of 'the Great One'

By Zach Harper

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Happy 60th Birthday, Wayne Gretzky!

The man they call the Great One grew up playing hockey in his backyard, watching Gordie Howe set records – many of which he later smashed himself.

Although he retired more than 20 years ago (!), Number 99 still holds dozens of NHL records, including most goals scored, the most goals scored in a single season, most assists, most assists in a single season and most points. He is widely considered the best hockey player of all time.

He's also been a successful business owner and is a devoted father, husband and family man.

Scroll through the gallery – or click through, if you're on desktop – to see some of the most incredible milestones from his life, from his humble beginnings to the very top of the hockey pantheon.

Photos: © Getty Images


A child prodigy

Born and raised in Brantford, Ont., Wayne started playing hockey from an early age thanks to his father Walter, who turned the family's backyard into a rink every winter so his son could learn the great Canadian pastime.

Wayne quickly showed talent beyond his years, starting to play rep hockey when he was just six years old, competing with boys who were four years older than him. By the time he was 13, he was scoring more than 1,000 goals, and moved to Toronto to begin playing at a higher level there.

At age 16, Wayne was drafted by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey Association and then moved to the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association in 1978. He was just 17 years old. A year later, he signed with the Edmonton Oilers, also part of the WHA, which soon joined the NHL.

Photo: © Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images



Wayne's first season in the NHL was nothing short of extraordinary. He won the Hart Memorial Trophy, which goes to the NHL's Most Valuable Player, and also tied Marcel Dionne for the most points in the league. He was still a teenager at the time! Wayne went on to win the Hart eight more times. He's pictured left with it in 1989.

It's also worth noting that he also became the youngest player to score 50 goals in a season.

The number of points he scored in his first NHL season is still the highest on record for any first-year player.

If the Edmonton Oilers had always been part of the NHL, Wayne also would have picked up the Calder Memorial Trophy, which goes to the league's best rookie. But unfortunately, since the league counted his previous year playing in the WHA as professional hockey experience, he wasn't eligible for the award.

Photo: © Bruce Bennett/Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images



Wayne's second season saw him not only win the Art Ross Trophy for most points scored that year, but he also broke records for most assists in a season and most points in a season that had been held by NHL legends Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito, respectively. He also won the Hart Trophy again, and scored 50 goals in 39 games, which no one had done since Mike Bossy tied Maurice Richard's 1944-1945 record in 1980-1981. Maurice and Mike had previously done it in 50 games.

That season, he finished with more than 200 points, and he's still the only NHL player to ever have hit that mark in a single season.

Photo: © Bettmann/Getty Images


Canada Cup glory

At 20 years old, Wayne also experienced extreme highs on the ice in the 1981 Canada Cup. While the Canadians finished second to the Soviet Union, they picked up gold in 1984, 1987 and 1991.

The tournament in 1987 featured some of the most thrilling hockey moments Canadians have ever seen. Wayne and Mario Lemieux played on the same line, combining to score many key goals and the tournament winner. On that goal, Mario received an incredible pass from Wayne with less than two minutes left in the game, which was tied at five goals apiece. Mario hooked it into the net on Wayne's pass in a goal that many experts consider one of the greatest Canadian goals ever scored in international competition. It's mentioned in the same breath as Paul Henderson's game-winning goal against the Soviet Union in the 1972 Summit Series.

Photo: © Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images


Smashing his own records

Records are made to be broken, and when you're Wayne, you break your own. The Great One broke his own assists record over five consecutive seasons. He also broke his own points record in the 1985-1986 season.

By the time he was 25, he held dozens of NHL records.

At left, he holds the Campbell Trophy, which is awarded to the Western Conference champions, in 1984.

Photo: © Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images/Getty Images


Stanley Cups

The seasons from 1984 to 1988 were the Oilers' glory years. Not only did they have Wayne as team captain, but the squad also counted superstar Mark Messier in its ranks, along with Paul Coffey and Grant Fuhr.

Despite Wayne's early scoring and points success, the Oilers were a bit slower to show post-season success. They picked up their first Stanley Cup in 1984 and went on to win the NHL's championship four more times in seven years.

At left, you can see Wayne with the Stanley Cups in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988. The Oilers won the Cup again in 1990, but by then Wayne had been traded to Los Angeles.

Photos: © Bruce Bennett/Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images


The Los Angeles years

Wayne's trade to Los Angeles upset many Canadians – and him initially, since he cried at the press conference – but it was the next move in a hugely successful career for him.

His move to Tinseltown not only put hockey on the map in southern California, but his move to the Kings is credited with helping the NHL expand throughout much of the United States. The Kings started selling out games – something they hadn't done often – and they qualified for the playoffs the first year he was there.

Wayne and the Kings didn't win a Stanley Cup during his time in Tinseltown, though they did make it to the Finals against the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. Unfortunately, they lost.

Wayne had a massive achievement during this time when he broke Gordie Howe's career goal-scoring record in 1994. Gordie was Wayne's idol, and he took the number 99 in tribute to Gordie, who wore number 9 during his career. Gordie had long held the scoring record, having racked up 801 goals during his own storied career, and Wayne smashed it. He still holds the record for most goals in a career.

At left, you can see the Great One holding up the puck with which he scored his 802nd goal, setting the new record. He went on to score many more times and still holds it.

Photo: © Bruce Bennett/Getty Images


Milestones in New York

Wayne left Los Angeles in 1996 and was traded to the St. Louis Blues. He played one season with the team before moving to the New York Rangers, where his former Oilers teammate Mark was playing. Their reunion didn't last long, though, with Mark being traded to the Vancouver Canucks in 1998.

During his final season in the NHL, Wayne again smashed one of Gordie's records, scoring 1,072 goals during his career. You can see him holding the puck with which he did it at left.

On April 18, 1999, Wayne retired from the NHL, playing his final game as a pro and getting an assist in the process.

Photo: © Bruce Bennett/Getty Images


Wayne's family

Wayne met actress Janet Jones many times before the two eventually fell in love. In 1988, they married, and they've had five children: Paulina, Ty, Trevor, Tristan and Emma. Paulina has had a successful modelling career and is engaged to pro golfer Dustin Johnson.

Emma is keen on tennis. Ty previously played hockey, but opted to go to university instead, and Trevor played minor league baseball, but didn't turn pro.

In an interview with Us Weekly in 2018, Wayne called his kids "our superglue," saying the differences in their ages ensures there's always plenty for he and Janet to do as parents and work together in bringing them up and providing guidance now that most of them are adults.

Wayne and Janet live in Thousand Oaks, Calif. in a 12,000-square-foot home they originally sold in 2007 and repurchased nine years later.

Photo: © Michael Tullberg/Getty Images


Post-hockey life

During and after his NHL career, Wayne went on to become a pretty successful businessman. When the Toronto Argonauts won the Grey Cup in 1991, Wayne was one of the team's minority owners, and his name is engraved on the trophy.

In 2017, he opened his own Wayne Gretzky Estates in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Its wines prominently feature the number '99.'

He also owned the Wayne Gretzky's restaurant in downtown Toronto from 1993 to 2020, and also owns restaurants in Edmonton.

Wayne also loves playing golf (you'd have to figure, since Dustin Johnson is set to be his son-in-law) and frequently competes in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Photo: © Jeff Gross/Getty Images

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