Is it possible to narrow down greatness into one defining moment?
If someone has spent their entire life defying expectations and going above and beyond the call or duty, are we as hockey fans able to pinpoint a singular event that stands head and shoulders above all others?
Ask 50 hockey fans their favourite Wayne Gretzky memory and you are likely to receive 50 different opinions on just what was the Great One's greatest feat?
First off, where to begin?
We are discussing a player who virtually re-wrote the record book on a nightly basis since scoring 378 goals in one season as a 10-year old in Brantford, Ontario. By the time that he announced his retirement in 1999, Gretzky was the proud owner of no fewer than 61 NHL records including most career goals, assists and points.
The respect in the game for Gretzky was unequalled, to such a point that no player in the NHL will ever wear the number 99 again. The only other athlete in North American team sports that has achieved such an honour is Jackie Robinson, who had to break the colour barrier in Major League Baseball to have his number 42 retired.
When someone mentions the name Wayne Gretzky, what is the first thing that pops into your head? Is it the frightfully skinny kid setting up office behind the opposing team's net feeding a murderer's row of Oiler snipers in front? Maybe you recall the young man that first lifted the Stanley Cup over his head in 1984 at age 23? Perhaps your most significant memory is the tear stained Canadian icon informing the world that he had been traded to the sunny shores of La La land? On the other hand it could be the international superstar hamming it up on Saturday Night Live or running in cartoon form alongside Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson on Pro Stars?
When choosing a moment do you limit your choice to Gretzky's illustrious NHL career, or perhaps let your national pride shine through?
Does your mind flash back to Hamilton in 1987 where a smack dab in the middle of his prime Gretzky feathers a pass to a soon to be legend in Mario Lemieux to help Canada reclaim the Canada Cup?
Maybe you remember the look of helplessness while sitting on the bench in Nagano, watching his team fall in a shootout to the Czech Republic in the Olympics? Or perhaps the post-retirement elder statesman whooping it up in the crowd like a fan while watching Canada redeem themselves at the Salt Lake City games?
Is it the good memories that stick out, or is it the bad ones? The unbridled joy he expressed while surpassing Gordie Howe's once thought unbreakable record of 801 career goals or the frustration of standing behind the bench of a woefully bad Phoenix Coyotes team that missed the playoffs all four seasons of Gretzky's tenure?
Perhaps it is an exercise in futility attempting to find a solitary moment in an illustrious career filled with so many ridiculous feats of skill
As long time readers know this man is my hero not only for his accomplishments on the ice but also off the ice…he his very focused on family.
When I first came to Canada, Edmonton in 1980 and was taken to my first ever hockey game at the Edmonton Coliseum and seeing him perform his magic on the ice I was hooked…..interesting story on him on my blog around 4th April 2008…and of course I have my 99 tattoo on my ankle.
Happy Birthday Wayne!!