Wayne Gretzky Was So Good People Thought It Was Against the Rules to Check Him

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Credit - Håkan Dahlström

At the apex of his on-ice dominance, Wayne Gretzky was a veritable force of nature whose towering reputation preceded him to such a point many of his peers were actively terrified of him. This in spite of Gretzky’s underwhelming physicality and diminutive frame. Something that led to a lot of fellow players assuming that it was literally against the rules to try and snap him in half on the ice.

To explain, as we’ve discussed before, Gretzky pretty much came dead last in team strength tests for the entirety of his career, consistently ranking as the physically weakest person on his team. This said, there was one stat of Gretzky’s that was, quite literally, off the charts, stamina. With The Great One reportedly having such a potent ability to recoup lost and expanded stamina that the doctor tasked with measuring it assuming that their testing machine was broken. Seriously.

This coupled with the fact Gretzky literally learned how to skate before he could walk, made him next to impossible to check. With peers noting that trying to check Gretzky was like trying to check a fucking ghost, in that any attempt to tackle him resulted in you hitting, nothing at all.

This led to a pair of recurring, contradictory rumours that were in, hindsight, fucking hilarious. The first is that Gretzky had literal psychic powers and could somehow just sense when someone was about to fuck him up, which while obviously bullshit does actually have some basis in reality. With experts noting that Gretzky’s innate understanding of how to move during play was so good that, to a layperson, it could look like he had supernatural hockey powers. Like he was Hockey Magneto or something.

The second rumour though is far more prevalent and, according to our research, was even brought up to Gretzky himself multiple times. The rumour being that there was an unofficial rule passed down by the NHL that players were absolutely not allowed to check him. The purported reason why being that Gretzky was so good that him being snapped in half would would piss off both fans and sponsors who enjoyed seeing him excel.

While many players are said to have repeated this rumour, with some even repeating it to Gretzky himself, the truth is that Gretzky was simply so good people couldn’t hit him. This isn’t to say that people didn’t try to check Gretzky or that he didn’t get hit, with both being commonplace throughout his career. Because let’s be honest, what opposing team would pass up the chance to hobble the literal best player in the league? Sport is all about that shit.

However, the vast majority of people who did try failed and those who somehow did manage to score a hit on Gretzky would have to contend with the slab of Canadian beef known as Dave Semenko. An enforcer tasked with ensuring Gretzky’s safety throughout most of his career and, failing that, seeing that anybody who did land a hit on would be knocked into next fucking week.

Credit – Connor Mah

These two factors were noted as being enough to scare off most threats, which only served to fuel the aforementioned rumours and add further to Gretzky’s now mythical reputation. Something that inadvertently led to Gretzky’s retirement. To explain, as Gretzky himself would himself note, towards the end of this career he noticed that younger players would warn him before attempting to take him out. His theory being that they simply didn’t want to be responsible for taking out Wayne Fucking Gretzky, which made him realise that he should probably retire as the idea of players taking it easy on him didn’t feel right. Not that it’d have worked anyway since we imagine that even if someone brought a gun onto the ice Gretzky would have somehow found a way to dodge the bullets like Neo then nail a slap shot from half court.