What Made Wayne Gretzky So Good?

Wayne Gretzky, also known as “The Great One”, is perhaps the greatest hockey player of all time. He dominated the game like no other and set records that many thought were untouchable. His impressive career spanned over two decades, during which he won four Stanley Cups, nine Hart Trophies (league MVP), and scored over 200 points in a single season four times.

But what made Wayne Gretzky so good? In this blog post, we’ll look at the factors that contributed to his success on the ice.


Gretzky’s journey to greatness began in Brantford, Ontario, where he fell in love with hockey at a young age. Gretzky began skating when he was only two years old, under the supervision of his father. By age six, he was already playing with boys several years older than him.

He was a prodigious talent, dominating the junior leagues in the OHL. The NHL beckoned, and Gretzky debuted at 17, playing for the Indianapolis Racers in the World Hockey Association (WHA). Wayne’s talents grew stronger post-debut, showcasing exceptional quality.

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So, what made Wayne Gretzky so special? Well, the answer will vary depending on who you ask. But everyone can agree that ‘The Great One’ is a legendary hockey figure. Let’s take some time to explore the skillset and version of this all-time great that made him stand out from the rest.

Vision and Creativity

One of Gretzky’s greatest assets was his vision on the ice. He could see plays before they happened, anticipate where the puck would be, and make passes that other players couldn’t even imagine. It was like he had a crystal ball on the ice, always one step ahead. This skill came from years of practice and a deep understanding of the game, but it also came naturally to him.

Wayne Gretzky Playing
Credit: Getty Images

In 1981-82, at just 20 years old, he astonishingly scored 50 goals in 39 games, smashing Maurice “Rocket” Richard’s 50-in-50 record from 1944-45, later matched by Mike Bossy in 1980-81.

Adaptability and Playmaking Skills

Gretzky was able to adapt to different styles of play and adjust his game accordingly. He wasn’t just a goal scorer; he was a playmaker extraordinaire. His vision on the ice was unparalleled. “His pass is not like anyone else’s,” said Colin Campbell. That’s why he has such a strong assist record. He set the record for the most assists in a single season in 1985-86, with 163 in an 80-game schedule. Simply amazing!

Wayne revolutionized the centre’s role, becoming a scoring opportunity creator. He also adapted to changes in his physical abilities as he aged, relying more on his experience and knowledge of the game to compensate for any limitations.

Fitness & Work Ethic

Gretzky possessed innate talent, but no natural talent can sustain two decades without a strong work ethic. Gretzky was the same way; he was also one of the hardest-working players in the game.

Gretzky once said, “The guys who play a physical game grind themselves down because the body can only repair itself so often. As a result, he spent much of his time practicing, analyzing new techniques, and working with his teammates to improve their overall performance. He never stopped learning and consistently sought new methods to improve his game.

Mental Toughness

One of the things that people talk about in sports is how mentally tough they are because sports are a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. And the ice legend’s mental fortitude was unrivalled. Gretzky was able to handle pressure and overcome adversity with remarkable ease. He remained calm and focused even in high-stress situations, and his mental strength gave him an edge over his opponents. He could also bounce back quickly when things weren’t going well, never allowing setbacks to define him. 

Love of the Game

Perhaps the most important factor that made Gretzky so great was his love of the game. He was passionate about hockey from a young age and never lost that passion throughout his career. Due to his father, Walter Gretzky’s early influence, Wayne Gretzky began skating at a young age and subsequently developed an enduring passion for hockey. This love of the game fueled his work ethic, creativity, and mental toughness, allowing him to continue playing at an elite level for over two decades.

Wayne Gretzky’s Unsurpassable Legacy: Top 10 Records in the NHL

  • Achieved the highest number of Art Ross Trophies in a career (10).
  • Set the record for the most goals scored in a single season (92).
  • Holds the all-time record for the most assists in a single season (163).
  • Secured the title for the most professional goals scored in a career (1,072).
  • Notched the highest number of career assists (1,963).
  • Accumulated an impressive total of Hart Trophies in a career (9).
  • Claimed the record for the most career points (2,857).
  • Achieved the remarkable feat of three consecutive 200-point seasons.
  • Achieved a 51-game point-scoring streak.
  • Accomplished the astounding milestone of scoring 50 goals in just 39 games.

“You don’t get called The Great One unless you’re something special and Wayne, it goes without saying, was a once-in-a-generation talent.”

“Watching his artistry on the ice was a treat for everyone who loves the game of hockey. If anyone had to bump me down the ladder, I’m happy that it was him. As I’ve always said since then, the way I see it, the record is in good hands.”

Howe wrote in his 2014 autobiography “Mr. Hockey: My Story.”

Wayne Gretzky’s legacy continues to shape the sport, and his influence can be seen in the play styles of countless young players. Coaches and strategists still draw from his playbook to gain an edge. He wasn’t just another hockey player. He defined the game. An all-time legend!

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