Remember Bill McCreary? This is what happened to the rookie that knocked out Gretzky in only his second NHL game

Wayne Gretzky had the best career of any hockey player in history. He has the most goals, assists, and, of course, points.

He’s without a doubt the greatest to ever play in the NHL, and it’s actually remarkable how Gretzky managed to stay injury-free throughout his whole career.

Mario Lemieux, widely considered the second-best player ever, wasn’t so lucky. Bobby Orr, also in the mix of being the top three greatest of all time, didn’t even play more than ten years in the league.

But Gretzky had some luck, but not everything depended on it. Gretzky also had great protectors, mainly in the form of Dave Semenko and Marty McSorley. Gretzky always had an enforcer on his line, and if someone messed with 99, the protector would do absolutely everything to get back at you.

UNIONDALE, NY – NOVEMBER 14: Wayne Gretzky #99 of the Edmonton Oilers skates on the ice during an NHL game against the New York Islanders on November 14, 1981 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

Gretzky also had the best anticipation of any hockey player in history. He wasn’t the quickest, but he was always two steps ahead, and it often led to him avoiding big and potentially injury-risky hits.

But in general, players didn’t really go after Gretzky. The fans loved to watch him play, and it was a bold move to take out the greatest player in the league and of all time.

TORONTO, ON – JANUARY 26: Bill McCreary #28 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Detroit Red Wings during NHL game action on January 26, 1981 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)

But one time, a rookie by the name of Bill McCreary absolutely crushed The Great One in a game in January 1981. And after that day, nothing would be the same for him.

McCreary was only 20 years old at the time; the Toronto Maple Leafs had just called him up from a minor league affiliate. Everyone who watched the game remembers it, and his then-teammates will never forget about it.

“It was just one of those nights that I’ll remember,” said Barry Melrose, who was in uniform with the Leafs, to The Athletic. “You saw something you don’t see very often: That’s Wayne Gretzky getting drilled.”

Source: Youtube

For McCreary, it wasn’t something special until it suddenly was.

“To me, it wasn’t a big deal until after the game,” McCreary said. “Some of the guys on the bus gave me a pat and said, ‘Nice hit, kid, but you probably shouldn’t have done that.’

It was only Gretzky’s second season in the NHL, but he was still the best the league had ever seen. And nobody was able to stop him or land a hit on him. Gretzky probably thought McCreary was heading for a line change as he cut across the offensive blue line.

But McCreary instead approached Gretzky at full speed, and the two collided. Gretzky looked knocked out on his back, looking up at the rafters. Eventually, he got back up, and he was angry.

“When he got up, he was pissed, and he didn’t want to talk to anybody,” Eddie Mio, who started in net that night for Edmonton, said. “But he wasn’t pissed so much at McCreary. He was pissed at himself.”

Source: Youtube

The Oilers bench realized it wasn’t a dangerous hit, and that Gretzky never could get injured from a hit like that, so they instead, after initially getting into a bit of shock, started laughing.

For McCreary, the hit meant the bench for the rest of the game. And perhaps it was for the best, given what the Edmonton players might’ve done to retaliate. Gretzky has said that McCreary hit him harder than anybody ever hit him, and after playing just ten more games with the Leafs that month, his NHL career ended.

Some years later, he was dropped by the Leafs. The Blackhawks invited him to the training camp, but he wasn’t offered a contract. It wasn’t meant to be, and although his hockey career wasn’t over, his NHL career was.

Source: Bildbyran

He got a finance degree and moved to Michigan, launching a career in the mortgage industry.

Today, he’s a high school hockey coach and occasionally tells the story about how he knocked out Gretzky at weddings and other happenings.

He says there isn’t a conspiracy involved with him being out of the league just ten games after the hit.

“They didn’t need to worry about me,” McCreary said.

But he still thinks the hit was great.

“Certainly no malicious intent involved,” McCreary said. “You’re not looking for anybody. You’re not trying to make a statement. You’re just playing the game. And it happened to be Wayne Gretzky.”

READ MORE: The reason Wayne Gretzky announced his retirement just two days before his final game says everything about his greatness