On this day in 1982, hockey sensation Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers finishes the NHL season with 212 points, the first and only player in NHL history to break the 200-point barrier.
A hockey prodigy, Gretzky turned pro at 17 and joined the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association (WHA). The Racers traded Gretzky to the Edmonton Oilers, who became part of the National Hockey League (NHL) after the WHA folded in 1979. Gretzky quickly established himself as a dominant force in the NHL. During his first full season with the Oilers, 1979-1980, he won the Hart Memorial Trophy for the league’s most valuable player, an award he would receive a record nine times in his career. Also that year, Gretzky became the youngest NHL player to score 50 goals in a single season. The following season, Gretzky, nicknamed “The Great One,” won the first of seven consecutive scoring titles with a then-record 164 points. That year, he also broke Phil Esposito’s record of 152 points and Bobby Orr’s record of 102 assists in one season. On February 24, 1982, in a game against the Buffalo Sabres, Gretzky scored his 77th goal of the season and crushed Phil Esposito’s record of 76 goals, set during the 1970-1971 season. Less than two months later, on April 4, Gretzky finished the season with 92 goals and 120 assists for a total of 212 points, becoming the only player in NHL history to record a 200-point regular season. And it would not be the last time for Gretzky: He went on to score 205 points in the 1983-1984 season, 208 in the 1984-1985 season and 215 in 1985-1986. Only Mario Lemieux has come anywhere close to Gretzky’s record, with 199 points in 1988-1989.
Gretzky continued to set records during his years with the Oilers, in addition to helping them win the Stanley Cup four times, in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988. In July 1988, Gretzky married American actress Janet Jones, with 700 guests in attendance, at what was labeled Canada’s Royal Wedding. In August of that same year, Oilers owner Peter Pocklington, in need of cash, traded Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings. The trade was a blow to many Canadian hockey fans, some of whom asked their government to intervene and block the trade. Fans were critical of Pocklington, as well as Gretzky’s new wife, who they believed wanted to be in Los Angeles for her career.
Gretzky’s years with the Kings generated lots of excitement, although he never won a Stanley Cup with the team. He went on to play for the St. Louis Blues during the 1995-1996 season and then spent the last three years of his career with the New York Rangers. When Gretzky retired in 1999, after 20 seasons in the NHL, he was widely considered the greatest player in the history of hockey. In February 2000, the NHL retired his jersey number–99.