The National Hockey League announced today that the incomparable Wayne Gretzky will serve as the official Centennial Ambassador in conjunction with its year-long celebration in 2017.
Gretzky, the NHL's all-time leader in goals (894), assists (1,963) and points (2,857) as well as numerous other records, will make appearances at various events throughout the calendar year celebration, which commences Jan. 1, 2017, with the NHL Centennial Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings at BMO Field in Toronto.
A four-time Stanley Cup winner as captain of the Edmonton Oilers (1983-84, 1984-85, 1986-87 and 1987-88), Gretzky dominated the NHL unlike any other player in history. He captured nine Hart Memorial Trophies as League MVP, including eight straight beginning with his first NHL season in 1979-80. He also won 10 Art Ross Trophies, five Ted Lindsay Awards, five Lady Byng Memorial Trophies and two Conn Smythe Trophies; was voted to 15 postseason All-Star teams (eight First Team, seven Second Team); and skated in 18 All-Star Games.
Gretzky, who played for the Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers, appeared in 20 NHL seasons from 1979-80 through 1998-99. Along the way he thrilled NHL fans with a succession of record-shattering performances, including single-season marks for goals (92), assists (163) and points (215); 50 goals in his team's first 39 games in 1981-82; a point streak of 51 games to start the 1983-84 campaign; and an all-time playoff scoring record with 47 points in 1984-85.
The Brantford, Ont., native skated in his last game on April 18, 1999, at Madison Square Garden (vs. PIT) and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame that June, becoming the 10th and last player to bypass the three-year waiting period. The NHL also retired Gretzky's No. 99 jersey, making him the first and only player in League history to earn that honor.
Gretzky's tireless support of the game has contributed significantly to the popularity it enjoys today. He received the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1994 for outstanding service to hockey in the United States, and was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2009 "for his continued contributions to the world of hockey, notably, as one of the best players of all time, as well as for his social engagement as a philanthropist, volunteer and role model for countless young people."
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