Wayne Gretzky turns 50. The hockey prodigy from Brantford, Ont., that Canadians watched grow up, turn pro at 17, win four Stanley Cups, marry a Hollywood starlet, become a dad then gracefully retire from the game he dominated for two decades is now entrenched in middle age.
Here are 50 things you probably didn’t know — or had forgotten — about the country’s most famous athlete:
1. 50 goals in 39 games. Yeah, we know. Not again in our lifetime.
2. On his personal website, former Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington misspelled his star player’s name “Gretsky.”
3. The Star misspelled his name as “Gretsky” multiple times in the 1980s.
4. His first long-time girlfriend was singer Vicki Moss.
5. His wife Janet Jones Gretzky played Matt Dillon’s girlfriend in 1984 movie, The Flamingo Kid.
6. There are three different poutine dishes at Wayne Gretzky’s (the restaurant) in downtown Toronto: Canadian, American and Tex-Mex.
7. All entrees at the eatery are priced to end with 99 cents.
8. Two can dine at Gretzky’s on Wednesday for $50. Dessert is the “99” Double Chocolate Puck — a warm “puck” filled with chocolate cream and served with vanilla ice cream.
9. Gretzky is an Aquarius.
10. A soap opera buff, he made a cameo in The Young and the Restless in 1981. He was a mobster named “Wayne.”
11. He scored 200 points in four different seasons when clutching and grabbing and hits to the head were all part of the game.
12. Story that won’t die: Pocklington won Gretzky’s rights from Nelson Skalbania, owner of the Indianapolis Racers of the defunct WHA, in a bet during a 1978 backgammon game.
13. Actor Mike Myers, the star of the movie Wayne’s World, had a Wayne Gretzky dream sequence during a Saturday Night Live skit.
14. “I’ve got more trophies than Wayne Gretzky and the pope combined.” — Homer Simpson.
15. There are 50 books making reference to Gretzky in the Toronto Public Library system.
16. Gretzky called the New Jersey Devils a Mickey Mouse operation in 1984 — then later profusely apologized.
17. Kids skip school to get Gretzky’s autograph in a 2008 episode of Everybody Hates Chris.
18. Michael Jordan, John Elway and Gretzky had a short-lived sports “e-commerce” business together as mvp.com.
19. Former teammate Mark Messier turned 50 on Jan. 18.
20. The Gretzky children: Paulina, Ty, Trevor, Tristan and Emma.
21. Paulina sang “I Will Remember You” at the NHL’s 2003 outdoor Heritage Classic in Edmonton.
22. Walter and Phyllis are considered Canada’s most famous hockey parents. Walter would use a lawn sprinkler on the backyard rink to make it smooth. Phyllis died in 2005. Walter is 72.
23. After his retirement in 1999, Gretzky was inducted that November into the Hockey Hall of Fame — the last player to have the normal three-year waiting period waived.
24. No other NHL player will ever wear No. 99; the league has retired the number.
26. He holds dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship.
27. Ted Beare, former sports editor of the Brantford Expositor, died earlier this month at 82. He was the first reporter to cover Gretzky in minor hockey and Gretzky never forgot that, always returning the journalist’s phone calls, according to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
28. Still can’t believe coach Marc Crawford didn’t use him in the shootout against the Czech Republic at the Nagano Olympics.
29. As a public speaker, Gretzky’s starting price is $50,001, according to PFP Sports and Celebrity Talent Agency website.
30. The Grape One makes wine in Vineland, Ont., at Wayne Gretzky Estates.
31. He pitched for Brantford as a 13-year-old at the 1973 CNE pewee baseball tournament.
32. Memorabilia on eBay: A vintage Gretzky-as-an-Oiler pillow case, $9.99.
33. Brother Brent also played in the NHL — 13 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
34. Gretzky was in one (brief) NHL fight — with Neal Broten.
35. A pair of nines in Texas Hold’em poker is sometimes called a Gretzky.
35. Live from New York: Gretzky hosted SNL in 1989. One of his singing lines: “I slipped the puck across the goal-line, the crowd went crazy and roared. But when my baby kissed me and held me in my arms, I knew that I had finally scored.”
36. Artist Andy Warhol captured Gretzky in a portrait. Warhol made seven original prints and gave one to Gretzky.
37. When he scored 50 goals in 39 games, the 50th was into an empty net on Dec. 30, 1981 — but not on an empty stomach. Teammate Kevin Lowe recalled Gretzky, his roommate, cooked bacon and eggs for them before that game.
38. A 1980s-era Gretzky doll retailed for $15.95.
39. He almost became a Maple Leaf as a free agent, a move rejected by then-chairman Steve Stavro.
40. When Pocklington traded his star player to the Los Angeles Kings in August of 1988, the Soviet news agency TASS reported that Gretzky was moving to another club “in his wife’s interests and most Soviet hockey devotees found it quite natural.”
41. Wayne and Janet first met in 1984 when he was a celebrity judge on the TV show Dance Fever. They reconnected in 1987 in L.A. and were married the next year in Edmonton.
42. Eddie Mio, a goaltender he met while playing with Indianapolis, was Gretzky’s best man.
43. His hockey idol was Gordie Howe, a.k.a. Mr. Hockey.
44. When Mr. Hockey was 50, he was still playing professionally.
45. Gretzky wanted a No. 9 jersey — like his hero, Howe — when he joined the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL, but a teammate had claimed it. Coach Muzz MacPherson suggested No. 99.
46. Urban legend? A Gretzky is a Tim Horton’s coffee with nine sugars and nine creams.
47. It took Gretzky 14 years to become invested in the Order of Canada because he was always busy with hockey. He received the official honour in 1998.
48. Forbes magazine estimated that between 1990 and 1998 Gretzky earned $93.8 million from hockey and endorsements for companies like McDonald’s, the Hudson’s Bay Co., Hallmark Cards and Coca-Cola.
49. On his 18th birthday, a massive cake was wheeled to centre ice in Edmonton. A teammate later sat on it in the locker-room, making it inedible
50. 50 years old already? Yeah, we know. Not another one like him in our lifetime.