THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
MARCH 23, 1994
Oscar winner Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) rises from his seat along with thousands of other expectant fans at the Los Angeles Forum. They see Wayne Gretzky in the open. And so does his Kings' teammate Marty McSorely, who flicks the puck back in front to The Great One. Vancouver Canucks stopper Kirk McLean is stranded. The announcer screams: 'He scores.'
Gretzky's wholesale revision of the NHL record book is now complete. The consummate playmaker is the all-time leader in points, assists, and now with his 802nd goal, the all-time leading goal scorer, passing his boyhood idol Gordie Howe. Gretzky scores his 802 goals in 1,117 games, while it took 'Mr Hockey' 1,767 to notch his 801.
As the cheering subsides, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman appears at centre ice to honour the Los Angeles Kings centre with a book with a scoresheet of every game in which he scored a goal. 'You've always been The Great One,' Bettman says, 'but tonight you've become the greatest.'
In a 20-year career, loaded with 61 NHL scoring records, the four-time Stanley Cup winner with the Edmonton Oilers would look back and say: 'It was the most significant goal of my career.'
In 1,487 games, Gretzky tallied 894 goals and 1,963 assists for 2,857 total points. Among his haul are the individual records for most goals (92), assists (163) and points (215) in a regular season. His No 99 was retired by the league after he hung up his skates in 1999 after the 1998-99 season. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 22, 1999. 'What separated Wayne from everyone else was his passion for the game,' says Kevin Lowe, Gretzky's teammate with Edmonton. 'All stars have a love for the game. What separates players like Wayne is the passion - he's like Michael Jordan. They take it to the next level.' Gretzky, now a managing partner of the Phoenix Coyotes, grew up wanting to be just like Howe. 'He had so many tricks around the net, no wonder he scored so many goals. I'd like to be just like him,' Gretzky said, then adding: 'Dreams do come true. I'm living proof of that.'