Few can argue that Wayne Gretzky isn’t the greatest hockey player of all time. And even before he made his debut in the world’s best hockey league, he was hyped up.
He made his WHA debut as an 18-year-old, and it didn’t take long before he met Gordie Howe, known as “Mr. Hockey”, who was then 50 years old, but still a big star for the New England Whalers.
When facing each other during the 1978-79 season, Gretzky was quickly reminded of which player he was up against.
“I was in the warmup, and I was so, so excited to play against Gordie Howe, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is something really cool,'” Gretzky said on “Conan” a few years ago. “And we’re skating around the warmup getting ready for the game, and every time I went by Gordie, he was winking at me, and he’s getting me excited for the game.”
“I went back in the locker room, and I said to one of the guys, ‘Gordie Howe is out there winking at me.’ And he said, ‘No, no, no. He’s got a blinking problem. He’s not winking at you.'”
When the game eventually started, Gretzky stole the puck from Howe.
“And I was going the other way, and all of a sudden I felt this stick, and he cracked me over the thumb,” Gretzky said.
“Howe said, ‘Kid, do not ever take the puck from me again,’ and I said, ‘No, I never will.'”, says Gretzky.
Gordie Howe is second in NHL scoring, bagging 801 goals, only behind Gretzky’s 894. And The Great One has nothing but respect for Mr. Hockey.
“He was a really special man, and he was the greatest hockey player who ever lived, and he happened to be the nicest man,” Gretzky said.