Inducted in 2000
A career that began innocently on his father's backyard rink developed into one of the greatest hockey has ever known. As a young boy, Wayne Gretzky played against boys years older than him. By 15, he made his debut in the OHL, and at 16 he played his one and only full season in that league, with Sault Ste. Marie. He wanted to wear number 9, but it was already taken, so the coach suggested he put two 9s on his sweater. Thus was born the famous 99. Gretzky played his first international tournament this 1977-78 season as well, becoming the only 16-year-old ever to lead the World Junior Championship in scoring. The next year, he played in the WHA, and the year after he was in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers. As a rookie, he tied Marcel Dionne for the lead in scoring with 137 points, but Dionne was awarded the Art Ross Trophy by virtue of having scored more goals. The next year the Great One broke two major records, eclipsing Bobby Orr's assists mark and Phil Esposito's points mark, two of the most prestigious records in the game. Gretzky was 20 years old. In '81-'82, he set a record which might never be broken, reaching the hallowed 50-goal mark in just 39 games. By year's end he had 92 goals and 212 points, unbelievable totals, to be sure. Gretzky led the Edmonton Oilers to their first Stanley Cup in 1984 and repeated again the next year, a year which saw him amass 163 assists and 215 points, totals which also might stand for decades if not all time. He took Canada to Canada Cup victory at the start of that season and another win in the 1987 Canada Cup. That '87-'88 season was his last with the Oilers as he was traded to Los Angeles after four Cups in Alberta. With the Kings, Gretzky continued to set records and establish hockey as the glitziest sport in a city where glitz was all that mattered. He recorded his 1,852nd point to pass the great Gordie Howe as the all-time scorer even though he had played for little more than a decade (Howe had played 26 years). The closest Gretzky came to a Cup again was in 1993 when the Kings lost to Montreal in a six-game finals. He played a few games with St. Louis at the end of the '96-'97 season and finished his career in New York, playing with old friend Mark Messier and the Rangers. Gretzky led the NHL in assists in his first 13 seasons in a row. He finished with 2,857 total points and set more than 50 NHL records. Given that 100 points in a season is a remarkable year, someone would have to have 29 consecutive seasons of 100 points to pass Gretzky as the league's leading scorer. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999, the year he retired, and into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame the following year. In addition to his NHL career, Gretzky played for Canada whenever he was asked. This included the 1991 Canada Cup, 1996 World Cup, and 1998 Olympics. In 2002, he was general manager to Canada's Olympic team which claimed gold for the first time in 50 years, and again in 2006, a disappointing seventh place finish. Gretzky continues to stay in the game as coach of Phoenix Coyotes, but his legend lives on as the most prolific scorer the game has ever known.