It's State Hockey Tourney time here in the Great North, a time when everyone can look back upon their youth and think of what might have been. Inevitably in the course of broadcast, an announcer gets excited about the product out on the ice and makes silly comparisons.
For example, the Edina Hornets (who will be playing in the class AA finals tonight after a FANTASTIC 5-4 win over Benilde in OT yesterday) have a first line that scored 97 GOALS during the regular season, with one of the kids putting in 41 of those in (I think) 27 games. One of the radio guys compared him to Gretzky. Now, don't get me wrong, if you can average a goal and a half per game, you're probably gonna end up being enshrined somewhere. But, with an assist from Wikipedia, let's not forget what Wayne was able to accomplish:
* With the Nadrofsky Steelers at the age of TEN, Gretzky scored 378 goals in 85 games. For you math majors out there, that's four and a half goals PER GAME. The highest-scoring TEAM in the NHL this year is averaging a little over three. Oh yeah, he tallied 139 assists that year, to boot.
* Nobody in the NHL has had more than 125 points since 1999. Wayne did it 12 years in a row (and had 104 points the year before the streak and 121 the year after).
* Gretzky's only year without averaging at least one point per game was in 1998-99, his 21st and final NHL season...and even then, he managed 0.9.
* Sid and Alex are both leading the NHL at 1.35 P/G, and are rightfully viewed as prolific scorers. Gretzky DOUBLED that in 1985-86 (215 points in 80 games), and came close in two other seasons.
*When Wayne got traded to L.A. in 1988, included in the trade was $15 million, which seems like a lot of money even today. Adjusted for inflation, that $15 M. is $27 million today...and the Oilers still got absolutely savaged for the deal.
* The second-, third-, and fourth-leading scorers in NHL history (Messier, Howe, and Ron Francis) all played at least 23 years...and none of them are within 950 points of Gretzky. He broke Howe's points record, and then played nine more seasons.
To play Devil's Advocate, you could argue that Wayne was SO good, that he actually got Southern California excited about a sport they couldn't feasibly play, and therefore indirectly led to the blasted expansion into the Sun Belt. Because Phoenix and Tampa need hockey teams. But that's beside the point...
In conclusion, there's a reason that nobody has the "who's the greatest hockey player ever?" argument, and it's not just because nobody cares about the sport. Nobody will ever be as good as Wayne Gretzky. Ever.
They say never say never? Well, I'm saying never. Sorry, Sid, you're not the next Great One. But "The next Jari Kurri" is still available.