Every sport has its greatest of all-time. In basketball it’s Jordan. In baseball it’s Ruth. In football, the lines intersect because of the many positions and nature of the game, but still Lombardi is held as the greatest coach of all time. And in hockey, Wayne Gretzky stands head and shoulders above all others – even the ageless Gordie Howe.
The Great One’s numbers are beyond staggering. Upon his retirement on April 18, 1999, he 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 16 professional seasons, 14 of them consecutively.
As a rookie, Gretzky was called “the greatest rookie prospect since Guy Lafleur.” All comparisons quickly escalated and eventually evaporated, after Gretzky entered the NHL, eclipsing record after record. In only his second season, Gretzky shattered Bobby Orr’s record for assists in a season and Phil Esposito’s single season record for goals, totaling a then-record 164 points. While individual accomplishments continued to accumulate, Gretzky still regards Edmonton’s run of five Stanley Cup titles in seven years as his greatest feat.