Gretzky shows up as a 23-year-old hot prospect in 1976
Playing for the Soo Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League, Wayne Gretzky scores 30 goals and 111 points in 71 games. That’s considered a good season in the OHL. By 1978, Gretzky is averaging 40 goals and more than 100 points a season, playing for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Gretzky moves into Toronto, where Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke buys a controlling interest in the Toronto Marlies, but Gretzky and Burke quarrel over how best to keep the future Hall of Famer with the team. Burke finds buyers in the NHL and Cal Bounhabha, Charles Bronfman and Sheldon Gaudette buy a stake in the Marlies. Gretzky signs a contract with the Marlies, although Burke remains an ally. During the lockout, Gretzky signs to play for the Vipers, Portland’s junior team, the equivalent of the Islanders’ AHL team.
Gretzky’s mother, Janet, joins the Phoenix Coyotes, making it apparent that the boy who first lived on the outskirts of the city as part of his father’s extended family is headed for maturity. Three years later, Gretzky is traded to the Edmonton Oilers for Wayne Gretzky Jr., Rod Langway and a first-round draft pick.
After Gretzky is traded to the Oilers, Dave Semenko writes a column for The Edmonton Journal that alleges Gretzky lied to him about his off-ice cocaine use. Gretzky sues Semenko for libel. The hockey world was rocked.
Gretzky lands in a fight with Philadelphia Flyers coach Ed Snider. Now, Gretzky isn’t new to big fights. He won’t back down from any challenge.
Gretzky’s two children, Paul and Robert, appear in family photos with him. Gretzky’s fourth child, Pauline, is the wife of Gretzky’s childhood friend, Dave Semenko. Gretzky and Pauline married in 1985.
Gretzky talks to baseball, basketball and football coaches, including Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, about coaching. He does not end up with a coaching job. He tries as a professional hockey player.
Gretzky and Burke participate in first-class travel. In 1979, they fly together to Toronto for contract negotiations, which in hockey terms, does not matter very much. In the 1988-89 season, they negotiate on a first-class boat so they can avoid Air Canada. From there, the pair fly to New York for contract negotiations.
Gretzky teams with former U.S. Sen. George McGovern. They have a terrific time.
Gretzky signs with Detroit Red Wings, where his shot-and-pass style develops while he stays largely out of a contract dispute.
To read the rest of this series, visit sinclair.abc.com