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1974: Wayne Gretzky, rising hockey star

By now it's practically hockey legend. Wayne Gretzky started playing the game in the backyard rink built by his dad. It marked the beginning of the most spectacular career in hockey history. From the time Gretzky donned his first pair of skates at age two to the shocking trade that took him south of the border, we look at how the "Great One" set the bar higher for Canada's favourite game.

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By now it's practically hockey folklore. Wayne Gretzky, simply known as "The Great One," got his start playing hockey in the backyard rink built by his dad, Walter. It marked the beginning of the most spectacular career in hockey history. Gretzky would go on to smash practically every record, win almost every award and set a new standard for Canada's favourite game. By the time of this 1974 interview with the CBC's Peter Gzowski, the 13-year-old is already a national icon.

It's a role the teenaged wonder seems to be taking in stride. It's not surprising considering the hockey prodigy started skating at two, was nationally known at age five, began signing autographs by the time he was ten and had been the focus of countless newspaper articles and even a TV special by age 11. When asked if he's going to turn pro, the five-foot-two, 93-pound wonder tells Gzowski: "All I can say is I hope."

"How much do you think you might be worth by the time you're 18? Would you believe a million dollars?" asks Gzowski. "No, not really," says Gretzky, his voice cracking. "I wish you could see the expression on Wayne's face, he's just sort of grinning and shaking his head," says Gzowski.
• Wayne Gretzky was born on Jan. 26, 1961 in Brantford, Ont. He was the oldest of five children born to Walter and Phyllis Gretzky. Walter, who worked for Bell Canada for over three decades, was Wayne's first hockey coach. Wayne has always credited his father as the most influential figure in his life.

• Walter Gretzky is often referred to as the ultimate hockey dad. Every winter he would flood the backyard, put up floodlights and set up nets so the neighbourhood kids could play hockey.

• Gretzky has said he owes everything he has to his father. "Don't get pigheaded on me," Walter always reminded his son. "No matter how good you are, there's always someone better."

• Gretzky was also a talented track star and a baseball player. In 1971 the 10-year-old athlete said: "If I couldn't play hockey I'd like to play baseball with the Oakland Athletics and Vida Blue."

• CBC's Peter Gzowski, a fan and a friend to Wayne Gretzky, remembered meeting the 13-year-old hockey sensation. "He looked like a squirrel...a slim, solemn, blond, not unattractive kid in a hockey jacket but, nevertheless, a squirrel."

• The first major newspaper article on Wayne Gretzky ran in the Toronto Telegram on Oct. 28, 1971. It was written by John Iaboni, who later said he knew he was seeing something special when he saw the four-foot-10, 70-pound 10-year-old play for Brantford's Nadrofsky Steelers.

• Wayne Gretzky was part of the first-ever outdoor NHL game which took place on Nov. 22, 2003 at the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. The Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens played in front of a sold-out crowd of about 58,000. As an added bonus, a "warm-up" game took place before the historic game with former stars of both teams including Grant Fuhr, Guy Lafleur and of course Gretzky.
Medium: Radio
Program: This Country in the Morning
Broadcast Date: March 25, 1974
Guest(s): Wayne Gretzky, Ron St. Amand
Host: Peter Gzowski
Duration: 20:19
Photo: Walter Gretzky

Last updated: November 3, 2014

Page consulted on November 3, 2014

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