Written by by Joel Halpern, CNN
With his brash persona and legendary ability, the first hockey player to turn the sport into a lucrative entertainment business, Wayne Gretzky cemented his place in history when he scored his 1000th career goal in April 2016.
But in addition to the number of goals he has scored, there are many other numbers that tell the story of a man who forged a legacy in three spheres — hockey, his native Canada and international business.
Here are just a few highlights.
A hockey hall of famer himself, Gretzky was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on January 9, 2008. Credit: Matt York/AP/REX/Shutterstock
1. The first
To put it mildly, Gretzky’s journey into the league wasn’t straightforward. The Canadian star entered the NHL in 1980 as an amateur, playing on the Canadian junior team. It wasn’t until he set foot in New York that he was selected to play for the United States Select Team during the 1979 World Championships.
He claimed a member of the players’ union sued to prevent him from participating in the tournament, but the case was dismissed by the Court of Appeals of Canada. In fact, Gretzky scored on his first shift, igniting an 18-year career with the United States.
2. The ultimate comeback
First started on October 16, 1981 with an 8-1 loss to Canada, Gretzky returned to the ice 19 months later with the Los Angeles Kings.
In 1986, the King had the best regular season in NHL history, despite an injury to Gretzky that forced him to play in just five games. In 1988, his 55 points set a record for a single season in the Western Conference. On May 13, 1989, Los Angeles beat Calgary in the opening game of the Stanley Cup finals for the first and only time in the franchise’s history.
Only months later, Gretzky was traded to the Edmonton Oilers, who eventually won the Stanley Cup in 1989, 1990 and 1993.
3. The king of trading
In addition to his time in the NHL, Gretzky didn’t slow down on the business side of the game. Between 1993 and 1997, the Michigan native made the deal of the decade when he merged the Oilers with the American expansion team, the Los Angeles Kings.
The New York Times said that the Gretzky-Kings deal was the “largest single transaction in North American sports history, pushing a net $6.1 billion.”
However, the deal didn’t make for headlines during the infamous Locker Room Wars of 1996, when Gretzky and his bosses went after assistant coach Darryl Sutter, whom the hockey legend compared to Adolf Hitler.
The hockey legend will return to his sport’s hall of fame on Monday, January 14.
4. Eiffel Tower
In June 2006, the Canadian businessman ventured into London — again, to play hockey — at the O2 arena in England, as part of the Great Canadians: A Night in Montreal concert series. At a time when his popularity among some in the crowd began to diminish, Gretzky managed to score a point with 8,488 fans.
5. ‘Ice is the life’
In honor of Gretzky’s 80th birthday, the Grand Prix of Toronto announced that Gretzky would headline its 100th race in August 2007. Gretzky became the first non-Canadian to headline the event, featuring the fastest man in the world in Nelson Piquet.
Following his acrimonious departure from the NHL, Gretzky worked with equity investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. to make charitable donations, and reportedly bought the downtown Loblaws supermarket chain in 1992. He is also an advocate for special education in his native Canada.
Gretzky with Patrick Roy, left, and Pat Burns in 2005. Credit: Andre Ringuette/AP/REX/Shutterstock
6. Record breaking
Although Gretzky’s recent ventures — namely his record-breaking career — have been overshadowed by major debates, his feats in ice hockey and business continue to be recognized.