Wayne Gretzky as Popular as Ever in 2023

As a Hockey Fan, I’m sure we all must have our hockey heroes.  For me, my hero is Wayne Gretzky. Today marks the 62nd birthday of the greatest hockey player to ever play the NHL game, Wayne Gretzky. Interestingly enough, January 26th seems to be a day of greatness as guitarist extraordinaire (and another favourite person of mine) Edward Van Halen was also born on January 26 (1955).

I’m sure that you don’t need a reminder about the greatness of Wayne Gretzky, but for some of the younger hockey fans out there:

  • Wayne Gretzky played 20 NHL seasons for four teams and is the current all-time leader in goals (894), assists (1,963) and points (2,857).
  • Over the course of his career Wayne Gretzky was a +520 in plus/minus.
  • Wayne Gretzky won 9 Hart trophies as League MVP, 10 Art Ross trophies as the NHL’s leading point producer, 5 Lady Byng Trophies
  • Little known fact: Wayne Gretzky has 577 penalty minutes in his NHL regular season career.
  • Wayne Gretzky still holds 61 NHL records (Additional Achievements)

Image Credit: Statmuse

Canadians still love Wayne Gretzky.  In fact, according to data from Google, in 2022, Canadians searched on average upwards of 1M times per month for “Wayne Gretzky” in Google. This was up +900% over the previous year.  As seen below, searches for Wayne Gretzky spiked during the week of April 24-30, 2022, during the week of May 22-28 and then again during the week of December 18-24 (people looking for Gretzky-related items for Christmas gifts perhaps?).

Google Search Activity for “Wayne Gretzky”

In case you were wondering folks from the Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland were the most active in Google searches for “Wayne Gretzky” in 2022.

Canadian search activity by Region for “Wayne Gretzky”

There has always been a great debate as to who was better Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux?  According to Canadian Search habits, it’s not even close.  Canadians tend to search for Wayne Gretzky ten times more than Mario Lemieux.

Canadian Search Volume Comparison for Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux (Source: Google)

When I was a kid, it wasn’t always cool to like Wayne Gretzky.  Growing up in Northern Alberta, there were a ton of Oilers fans, but it seemed like not as many Gretzky fans.  Mark Messier was always a favourite of mine as well, but Wayne Gretzky was off the charts for me.  I’ve shared some of my anecdotes in my book about being a long-time fan of the Edmonton Oilers (see: Burning The Midnight Oil: the Story of a Lifelong Oilers Fan).  One of the memories shared is how I missed out on getting an autograph from Wayne Gretzky when I was a kid (I still have not been able to fulfill this). The impact of the Wayne Gretzky trade in 1988 to the Los Angeles Kings had a profound impact in the NHL and on many hockey fans (myself included).

I must say that I’ve become even more fascinated with Wayne Gretzky’s accomplishments since he retired in 1999. A lot of people say that if Gretz played in today’s era that he wouldn’t have nearly as many points. Well that may be, but I’m not so sure. There’s never been another player who thinks the game like Wayne Gretzky did. Always one or two steps ahead of others. Sure Gretzky never used the “Michie” (see our post on Hockey Buzzwords) but the Gretzky button hook inside the blueline or the setup in the office behind the net are all used in today’s game still.

Wayne Gretzky Career NHL Stats

Here is a look at Wayne Gretzky’s regular season career statistics in the NHL.

Wayne Gretzky Career NHL Stats (Regular Season)

These numbers really are amazing and show how dominate of a player he was.  Of course, he played with a lot of talented players (Kurri, Coffey, Messier, Nicholls, Robitaille just to name a few) so that helps.  So many crazy numbers he put up.  For example, did you know that in 1984-85, Gretzky was a +100 after putting up 208 points during the season. He scored 50 goals in 39 games. Think about that for a second. Alex Ovechkin, as good as a goal scorer as he is, has not even come close to that record. Connor McDavid popping 40 in 48 this season is being talked about, but 50 in 30? As Don Cherry quipped at the time “he’s got fifty before anyone else has thirty…”.

Wayne Gretzky is not known as “The Great One” for no reason.  A remarkable hockey player with a remarkable career.  Happy 62nd birthday Mr. Gretzky.