A few players in the NHL get to play their whole career for one team. However, that does not apply to the greatest player of all time, Wayne Gretzky.
There is a saying in hockey when asked about a player potentially getting traded that goes: If Gretzky got traded anyone can get traded. In his NHL tenure Gretzky ended up getting traded twice, and signed with a new team as an unrestricted free agent once bringing his total to play for four teams.
What teams did Wayne Gretzky play for? In the NHL Wayne Gretzky played for four teams: Edmonton Oilers (1978-1988), Los Angeles Kings (1988-1996), St. Louis Blues (1996) and the New York Rangers (1996-99). He also played professionally in the WHA for one season with the Indianapolis Racers (1978-79).
Edmonton Oilers (1978-1988)
Edmonton was Gretzky’s first stop in the NHL.Embed from Getty Images
It is important to note that Gretzky was not drafted by the Edmonton Oilers, but he was sold/traded by the Oilers when they were part of the WHA in 1978 from the Indianapolis Racers.
The WHA would fold in 1978 with a handful of teams being taken into the NHL with the Oilers one of them. The Oilers got to protect two players on the roster as they entered the NHL – obviously, Gretzky was one of them.
Edmonton would be where he would have his greatest success as a player in all areas: stats, 4 Stanley Cups and personal awards.
Not only did Gretzky end up with all the personal accolades, he would really define a brand of offensive hockey that the NHL would adopt for the better part of a decade. Gretzky pushed the league to a whole new level of skill and offensive prowess as he shattered previous records.
Regular Season Stats from Edmonton
- 4 Stanley Cups
- 8 Hart Trophy
- 7 Art Ross Trophy
- 2 Conn Smythe Trophy
- Most Goals in a season: 92
- Most Assists in a season: 163
- Most Points in a season: 215
- All-time assist record
Los Angeles Kings (1988-1996)
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In 1988 the unthinkable happened for hockey fans: Wayne Gretzky got traded. The rumours started before Gretzky won his fourth Stanley Cup in 1988, however he was mostly sheltered from those rumours by his Dad, Walter Gretzky, until the Stanley Cup final was over.
At first Gretzky did not want anything to do with being traded, but after conversations with those closest to him and Kings owner Bruce McNall he agreed to be traded.
So on August 9, 1988, along with Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski, Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Martin Gelinas, Jimmy Carson, 1st round draft picks in 1989, 1991, and 1993 and $15 million dollars in cash.
Gretzky went onto have a decent amount of success on the ice in Los Angeles. He would win one more Hart trophy as most valuable player and three more Art Ross Trophies as the leagues top scorer. He would even lead the Kings to their first Stanley Cup finals appearance but would end up losing to Montreal in 1993.
Where Gretzky would have his biggest impact was off the ice. He opened up hockey to a whole new population of people. Gretzky would not only draw millions of eyeballs to the television sets in the U.S. but the Kings became the hot ticket in town and would attract a number of A list celebrities.
Gretzky’s trade to L.A. and his being an ambassador for hockey is also credited as the point that allowed the NHL to eventually expand to a number of new cities in the southern U.S. Since Gretzky’s trade the NHL has expanded to Anaheim and San Jose in California as well as Las Vegas, Arizona, Nashville, Tampa Bay, Florida and has placed teams in Dallas and Carolina.
This likely would not have happened if Gretzky had not gone to LA!
The fruit and impact of the trade is now being felt at the player development level. Kids who were born in California, Texas, Arizona, Texas and other southern states are now being drafted into the NHL. Auston Matthews from Arizona was the first overall draft pick and a superstar.
The impact of Gretzky’s time in LA cannot be understated.
Los Angeles Kings Regular Season Stats
- 1 Hart Trophy
- 3 Art Ross Trophies
- All-time goal record
- All-time point record
St. Louis Blues (1996)
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The best answer to any trivia question is Craig Johnson, Patrice Tardif, and Roman Vopat. The question to that answer is: “Who did the St. Louis Blues trade to acquire Wayne Gretzky in 1996?”
You may have never heard of these players – don’t worry you are not alone. Shouldn’t there be someone more noteworthy in a trade for the greatest player of all-time? Well, maybe. However, the thing about this trade is that St. Louis made a trade deadline acquisition for Gretzky.
Los Angeles was not going to make the playoffs and the Kings were looking at a rebuild of the team in the next several years – something Gretzky did not want to be a part of.
The Blues acquired him as part of their own playoff push, and they did qualify for the playoffs, but they were not an elite team at the time. They had an older team made up of veterans like Brett Hull, Al MacInnis and Dale Hawerchuk (with the exception of a very young Chris Pronger).
Gretzky would only play 18 regular season games with the Blues, and 13 games in the playoffs before losing in the second round to Detroit. He did lead the team in scoring in the playoffs.
St. Louis made an attempt to sign him to a 3-year 15 million contract, but rejected it and opted to sign elsewhere.
Regular season stats:
New York Rangers (1996-1999)
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Gretzky’s final stop in his career would take him to Manhattan and to the New York Rangers.
There were a number of different rumours about where Wayne would end up including the Detroit Red Wings and his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs (Wayne grew up in Brampton just outside of Toronto).
However, in the end, the allure of reuniting with his best friend Mark Messier was too much. He signed a 2-year contract for $10 million at the age of 35 with the Rangers.
The first season with Gretzky went well for the Rangers as they advanced to the Eastern Conference finals before losing to Philadelphia. However, that would mark the last playoff appearance for Wayne Gretzky.
The Rangers became a middling team over the next two years, and never managed to qualify for the playoffs. Gretzky’s personal stats remained decent, but he was clearly on a mediocre team.
Gretzky decided to retire at the end of the 1998-99 season. He thought it would be fitting to retire in a year that ended in 99. I think he was right.
New York Rangers Regular Season Stats
Wayne Gretzky Regular Season Career Stats