Gretzky had a remarkable career in children's leagues in Ontario. He scored 378 goals in 85 games at the age of 10. He played one year in the Ontario Hockey League at the age of 16, with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The next year, he signed with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association, then a major professional league in North America. Eight games into the season, his contract was bought by Peter Pocklington, owner of the Edmonton Oilers.
After the 1978-79 season, four teams, including the Oilers, joined the National Hockey League and the WHA folded. Gretzky tied for the scoring league with Marcel Dionne, amassing 137 points, but did not win the Art Ross Memorial Trophy because he had scored fewer goals than Dionne. Despite obviously being the top NHL rookie, he was not eligble for the Calder Memorial Trophy, having had a year of professional experience.
In his second season, Gretzky set a record for most points a season, with 164. He won both the Art Ross Trophy and the Hart Memorial Trophy, and would have a stranglehold on those trophies for several more years. The Oilers had a young, strong team, with players such as Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey. In the 1982-83 they made it to the Stanley Cup finals, only to be swept by the New York Islanders. The Oilers, led by Gretzky, made it back to the finals the next year, and this time they won. It would be the first of four Stanley Cup victories in five years.
After the 1987-88 season, Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, a move that deeply upset the Canadian populace. He helped to popularize hockey on the West Coast of the USA. That summer, he married Janet Jones, an American actress. Gretzky had several more excellent seasons with the Kings, leading them to the Stanley Cup finals in 1992-93, but they lost 4 games to 1 to the Montreal Canadiens, despite Gretzky leading all playoff scorers with 40 points in 24 games.
The Kings suffered through several mediocre seasons. In February 1996 he was traded to the Saint Louis Blues. He played only 18 games for the Blues. After the 1995-96 season he joined the New York Rangers, where he finished his 20-year career.
After he retired, following the 1998-99 season, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999. The NHL waived the usual 3-year waiting period. In his honour, his uniform number, 99, was retired for all teams.
Gretzky holds or shares more than 61 NHL records; 40 in the regular season, 15 for play-off games, and six for All-Star games. He holds single-season records for goals (92, set in 1981-82), assists (163, set in 1985-86) and points (215, set in 1985-86). He also holds the career records for goals (894), assists (1963) and points (2857).
He won many trophies: 9 Hart Trophies (including 8 in a row from 1980-1987 inclusive), 10 Art Ross Trophies (7 in a row from 1981-1987), 5 Lady Byng Trophies, 2 Conn Smythe Trophies and 5 Lester B. Pearson Awards. He played on four Stanley Cup winning teams.
|Season||Team||League||GP||G||A||Pts||PIM||Playoffs GP||Playoffs G||Playoffs A||Playoffs Pts||Playoffs PIM|
|1977-78||Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds||OHA||64||70||112||182||14||0||0||0||0||0|
|1988-89||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||78||54||114||168||26||11||5||17||22||0|
|1989-90||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||73||40||102||142||42||7||3||7||10||0|
|1990-91||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||78||41||122||163||16||12||4||11||15||2|
|1991-92||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||74||31||90||121||34||6||2||5||7||2|
|1992-93||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||45||16||49||65||6||24||15||25||40||4|
|1993-94||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||81||38||92||130||20||--||--||--||--||--|
|1994-95||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||48||11||37||48||6||--||--||--||--||--|
|1995-96||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||62||15||66||81||32||--||--||--||--||--|
|1995-96||St. Louis Blues||NHL||18||8||13||21||2||13||2||14||16||0|
|1996-97||New York Rangers||NHL||82||25||72||97||28||15||10||10||20||2|
|1997-98||New York Rangers||NHL||82||23||67||90||28||--||--||--||--||--|
|1998-99||New York Rangers||NHL||70||9||53||62||14||--||--||--||--||--|