True story, circa 2006. The setting: Casa Vega restaurant, Los Angeles. We’re outside waiting for our table. I’m turned to the side talking to someone. The front door opens, people come out, I do not look up. A full 30 seconds later:
Lisa: Shannon! Did you see? That was Wayne Gretzky!
Me: WHAT?! NO! Why did you wait till he was gone to tell me.
Lisa: Oh well. He saw you.
And thus went my one and only chance to meet the one and only Gretzky.
When I was in 9th grade I was reading Gretzky: An Autobiography. One night we were sitting at the dinner table and the living room door opened itself for no reason. Just swung halfway and stayed there. We all looked at each other. My brother called out: “Wayne, is that you?” And since then Gretzky has been credited with every weird thing that’s happened in my house. Can’t find your keys? Wayne took them. Why is the cat eating that plant? Wayne didn’t feed her. What happened to all the hot water? Wayne used it washing that fantastic hair.
Gretzky played 1695 NHL games (including playoffs). He scored a total of 3238 points. Go ahead, drool. That’s a 1.91 point-per-game average over a 21-year career. And he had only 643 penalty minutes. In 1981-82, he scored 92 goals. In 1985-86, he scored 215 points in 80 games. There are too many records to name, read them all here.
To give you perspective, Sidney Crosby has played 474 NHL games (inc. playoffs). He has 654 total points. If he stays on this pace, he will need 22.84 more regular seasons to match Gretzky’s numbers. At which point he’ll be almost 46 years old. [Note: Did all this math myself. Admittedly suspect.] As Yahoo’s PuckDaddy points out, Ovi would have to average over 43 goals per season for the next 14 seasons to catch Gretzky. [Link]
Today’s NHL is a different place and the very idea of a 92-goal season, or most of Gretzky’s other staggering accomplishments, seems insane. Perhaps the only reason I’d ever wish to be older, so I could have really appreciated Wayne in his heyday. It must have been something to see.
Happy birthday, Wayne Gretzky. You can keep all those car keys and TV remotes you stole.