Wayne Gretzky is nicknamed “The Great One”. He is the greatest hockey player who ever lived.
All great hockey legends have their first – goal, game, point, contract, championship. In this post I took a fun look back at a bunch of Wayne’s firsts.
Here we go!Embed from Getty Images
Wayne Gretzky’s First Contract
In 1978, when Gretzky was 17-years old the NHL had a rule that players under the age of 20 could not be signed. This was unfortunate for Gretzky because he was already dominating at the junior level at it was pointless for him to stay in that league.
Nelson Skalbania took this as an opportunity to sign Gretzky into the rival WHA (World Hockey Association) with the Indianapolis Racers. Skalbania signed Gretzky to a 7-year personal services contract worth $1.75 million.
Skalbania would sell Gretzky and his contract to Peter Poklington of the Edmonton OIlers (also part of the WHA at the time) in 1978, who then signed him to a 10 year personal services contract worth $3 million Canadian.
The Edmonton Oilers would become part of the NHL after the WHA folded at the start of the 1979-80 season, but did not sign a standard NHL contract until 1987 after Pocklington started to experience financial difficulty.
Wayne Gretzky’s First NHL Game and Point
Gretzkyâ€™s first professional game was with the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA in 1978, but did not play his first NHL game until the beginning of the 1979-90 season with the Edmonton Oilers. He did wear number 99 right from the beginning of his NHL career.
The Edmonton Oilers were originally part of the WHA, but as the WHA folded they were one of the teams that became part of the NHL.
His first game in the NHL came on October 10, 1979 versus the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago. The Hawks would beat the Oilers 4-2, but Gretzky picked up one assist on a power play goal by Kevin Lowe.
Gretzkyâ€™s First Game Stat Line:
Wayne Gretzky’s First NHL Goal
Gretzky would score his first goal of his NHL career in his third NHL game on October 14, 1979.
In a home matchup against the Vancouver Canucks, Gretzky and his Edmonton OIlers were trailing 4-3 in the 3rd period.
Wayne would score a power play goal assisted by Brett Callighen and Blair MacDonald to tie the game up 4-4. The game would end tied.
Here is a video of his first goal. The NHL commentator said the score was 3-2 but it was actually 4-3.
Wayne Gretzky’s First Hat Trick
Gretzky would record his first hat trick in his first season in a game on Feb 1, 1980 against the Winnipeg Jets. The Oilers pounded the Jets 9-2 on that night.
This would not be even close to his last hat trick as he registered 50 three-or-more goal games in his career. The breakdown was: 37 three-goal games; 9 four-goal games; 4 five-goal games.
He got ten 3 or more goal games in the 1981-82 and 1983-84 season.
Wayne Gretzky’s First NHL Record
The first NHL record that Gretzky ever broke was most assists in a game by a player in his first season.
On Feb. 15th, 1980 Edmonton beat Washington 8 to 2 and Gretzky recorded 7 assists. Wow!
The stat line for Gretzkyâ€™s first NHL season is impressive. Who would have thought otherwise?
First Season Stats:
He actually tied for the league in points with Marcel Dionne. However, Dionne scored one more goal (and Gretzky had one more assist) so Dionne was awarded the Art Ross Trophy as the leagueâ€™s top scorer.
Wayne Gretzky’s First Playoff Game
The Edmonton Oilers made the playoffs in theirs and Gretzkyâ€™s first season in the NHL, however they did not fare very well.
They played against the Philadelphia Flyers in a best-of-5 series getting swept in three games, although two of the losses were in overtime.
Gretzky had 2 goals and 1 assist in the playoff series.
Wayne Gretzky’s first Stanley Cup
It wouldnâ€™t take long for Gretzky and his Oilers to capture their first Stanley Cup.
In 1983-84 (their 5th NHL season) the Edmonton Oilers would capture the Stanley Cup against the New York Islanders. The previous year the Oilers also made the Stanley Cup against the Islanders but got swept in 4 games.
The Oilers took what they learned from losing the previous year and had a tense 1-0 win over the Islanders in the first game. They would lose the second game, but won three straight when they made it back to Edmonton.
The MVP award was not given to Gretzky, but to his close friend Mark Messier.
Gretzky did have a fine series though:
Wayne Gretzky’s first game with the Los Angeles Kings
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Gretzky started to hear rumours about being traded only hours after winning his fourth Stanley Cup with Edmonton in the spring of 1988. At first Wayne wanted nothing to do with this, but the unthinkable happened and on August 9, 1988 he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings.
Gretzky would play his first regular season game with the Los Angeles Kings on October 6, 1988. He started off with a bang as his Kings beat the Detroit Red Wings 8 to 2.
Wayne finished the game with 1 goal and 3 assists. Not bad for an opening night debut!
He played in LA until the 1996 season, and would eventually get his number 99 retired there.
Wayne Gretzky’s first game back in Edmonton after the trade
After being traded to the Kings, Edmonton fans did not have to wait long into the season before they welcomed Gretzky back.
Ten weeks after the trade, on October 19, 1988, Gretzky made his return visit to Edmonton, but lost in a high scoring affair 8 to 6.
For Gretzkyâ€™s part he finished with 2 assists, but the night is really remembered for how the fans reacted to Gretzky.
Wayne was not quite sure what would happen – boos or cheers or silence. As it turned out all the fans really wanted was a chance to say goodbye to their favourite adopted son.
From the start of the pregame skate he was showered with applause. During the national anthem Gretzky received a standing ovation that would last 4 minutes. He was welcomed back with open arms.
Was Wayne Gretzky drafted first overall?
Gretzky was not a first overall draft pick. In fact, Gretzky was not drafted into the NHL at all. When Wayne signed his first professional hockey contract it was with the WHA – a rival to the NHL.
At the time the NHL did not allow players under 20 to be signed, so the 17 year old Gretzky signed a contract to play in the WHA. Fortunately for the NHL the WHA would fold in a year and Wayne would end up on the Edmonton Oilers as one of the franchises going from the defunct WHA to being absorbed by the NHL.
Each team going from the WHA to the NHL got to protect two players – the Oilers wisely decided to keep Wayne (no brainer) and Gretzky never had to pass through any type of draft into the NHL.