Best Of Wayne Gretzky

Daniel Brown
• Friday, 15 January, 2021
• 7 min read

But I can tell you, though he doesn’t get the proper recognition, Gretzky was the best North-American male athlete that ever played a team sport. In the NHL, offensive production is measured in three main ways: goals, assists and points (goals+assists).

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Basically, Gretzky’s odds of winning league MVP or being the scoring champion were better than a coin-flip. For example, Jar played in 1,733 NHL games, which is 246 (three full seasons) more than Gretzky’s 1,487.

Maybe he was just someone who simply played long enough at a high enough level that he was always going to end up with staggering career numbers. For contrast, in 2019, the Art Ross Trophy went to Nikita Kuchen of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who scored 128 points, which was the highest mark in over 25 years.

Even wilder, Jamie Been of the Dallas Stars won the trophy in 2014-15 with only 87 points. Yes, Remain’s playing career was curtailed by cancer, and perhaps he’d be higher on the all-time scoring list if it hadn’t, but Gretzky was in a league of his own.

As it stands, there is no athlete in North-American team-sports history with a greater statistical advantage over the competition than Wayne Gretzky. The current NBA all-time scoring leader is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with 38,387, 1459 more than the next highest, Karl Malone.

For argument’s sake, if LeBron were to miraculously exceed Kareem’s mark by 32%, he would need to score 50,670 points, over 16,000 more than he currently has. In the MLB, the great hitters like Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds were remarkably close in career home runs and runs-batted-in, so there really is no clear all-time great among that group.

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The next closest is Randy Johnson, who struck out 4,875 batters in his time in the major leagues. For Ryan to exceed Johnson’s strikeout total by 32% he would have had to have thrown 6,435, an additional 721.

In the NFL, the difference between Tom Brady, Drew Trees and Peyton Manning in terms of key passing statistics is almost negligible. The only NFL record that appears anywhere near as far above the competition as Gretzky’s is Jerry Rice’s all-time receiving yards.

But, considering Fitzgerald is still an active and productive player, and the fact that receivers don’t have nearly the impact on a game that NFL QB’s, MLB pitchers, NBA stars or NHL top-line forwards do, Rice’s accomplishments really don’t compare. If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably wondering why if Gretzky truly is the best team-sport athlete ever, why it is that he’s not mentioned alongside the Michael Jordan’s and the Tom Brady’s of the sporting world.

The NHL just does not produce household names the way the other three major team-sports do, never mind the fact Gretzky played in Canada most of his career. Though he clearly loses the popularity contest, Gretzky dominated the NHL in a way no other athlete has ever done in North-American sports history.

LeBron James will likely have his number retired in Cleveland, Miami and Los Angeles, but there’s a reason no hockey player will ever wear No. Surely there is no dearth of talent, especially considering the team’s that Greta laced ’em up for.

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It’s also a daunting proposition when one considers that virtually any of Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers teams could qualify for this, long before taking into consideration the Los Angeles, St. Louis and New York days. Count his WHA totals and NHL Stanley Cup playoff goals and that’s well over 1,000 tallies.

His number 99 is retired in every single NHL building, and he is responsible for helping grow and popularize the sport of hockey in markets which have now realized just how truly special this sport is. Messier was teammates with Gretzky on the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers.

Messier also has a Conn Smythe and two Hart Memorial Trophies on his ledger. When Gretzky arrived at the Hollywood scene in 1988-89, Nicholls posted his most impressive NHL season.

Activist on the other hand (the last helmet-less player) was more of a grinder, an excellent face-off man and was teammates with Gretzky on the Oilers and St. Louis Blues. Craig Activist, seen here as coach of the Edmonton Oilers, was the last active NHL er to play without a helmet.

A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and five-time Stanley Cup champion. On four of those Cup winners with Gretzky, Kerri led all players in playoff goals.

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Hull is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and has two Stanley Cups and a Hart Memorial Trophy to his name. In his career, Anderson won six Stanley Cups, scored 498 goals, 601 assists and 1,099 points.

In addition to being a four-time All-Star, Anderson was something of an Iron Man, finishing first in games played three times. Each netted over 400 goals, but I’ll give Taylor the nod since he played with Gretzky a little longer with the Kings.

Although upon further review by the video below, Wayne may beg to differ on this choice. Luck Robitaille (LAW): Another unanimous choice and another member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Luck Robitaille tops the list for left wing.

Robitaille and Gretzky played together in Los Angeles and New York. The two helped guide the Kings to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1992-93.

During that campaign, Robitaille posted a career high 63 goals and 125 points. In his career, Robitaille was an eight-time All-Star, won the Calder Trophy and one Stanley Cup title.

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ESA Tienanmen (LAW): I like Tienanmen here because of the versatility he gives you. Tienanmen won five Stanley Cups, scored 244 goals and three times ranked in the top ten in shorthanded markers.

On a team like this, Tienanmen gives you 20-to-30 goals, and he’s not afraid to throw is weight around and drop the gloves. Gretzky and Tienanmen were teammates in Edmonton, St. Louis and New York.

Adam Graves (LAW): I could’ve gone with Graves or Kevin Stevens (both of whom finished with an identical career goal total of 329) or even Geoff Courtney or Craig Simpson or Tony Grant. Over his career Memento racked up 1,175 penalty minutes and fits just fine on the fourth line.

Paul Coffey (D): As we shift to the defense, we’ll begin with yet another member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Had they played longer together or were Robinson’s prime years in L.A. rather than Montreal, I might put him higher on this list for defense.

Robinson playing at the Alumni Legends Classic in Toronto in 2008. Over his career, Leech won a Stanley Cup and earned the Conn Smythe.

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Brian Leech, captain of the NHL’s New York Rangers, during a game in Vancouver, BC. Blake also has a Stanley Cup, Norris Trophy and seven All-Star appearances to his credit.

Al McGinnis (D): Would’ve been much higher on the list had he and Gretzky played together longer on the Blues or elsewhere. A Hockey Hall of Fame member, McGinnis tallied 340 goals, 934 assists and 1,274 points, along with a plus/minus rating of +373.

Chris Pronged (D): The lone still active player on this list, I changed my stance a bit here with picking Pronged over say a Kevin Lowe, Mathieu Schneider and Marty Morley. Additionally, Pronged has won a Stanley Cup, is a five-time All-Star and twice led the league in plus/minus rating.

Grant Fur (G): Another position (goalie) and yet another member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Fur and Gretzky played together in Edmonton, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

Fur was quite the workhorse in his day, logging 868 games and 48,945 minutes in net. Additionally, Fur twice led the NHL in wins, saves and games played.

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While the others played more during the freewheeling 1980s, Richter tops them with a save percentage of .904. Alright, so now that you’ve read the names and numbers, let the great (one) debate commence.

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