“Always Gonna Miss the National Hockey League”: Wayne Gretzky Left His Fans in Tears With Emotional Retirement Tribute in 1999

Published 11/29/2022, 3:45 PM EST

Few people will argue the claim Wayne Gretzky was the greatest ice hockey player of all time. From 1977 to 1999, Wayne rules the skating rink with game sense, skill and stamina. A goal-scoring machine, Wayne scored 894 goals in the NHL, a record still standing today. When he retired in 1999, Wayne held 61 career records in the NHL.

Wayne found success with every team during his three-decade career. Wayne announced he would retire after the New Your Rangers’ last game for the 99′ season. However, when it finally came time for the fans to say goodbye, Gretzky’s words moved them to tears.


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Wayne Gretzky fought back tears

Wayne played his last NHL game in Canada on April 15, 1999. After returning to New York, Gretzky announced his retirement the following day. “It’s obvious today I officially retired… Sunday will be my last game,” said Gretzky while holding back tears. He also said people who knew he was about to retire had asked him, “Why?”

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – NOVEMBER 11: Wayne Gretzky #99 of the Edmonton Oilers skates on the ice during an NHL game against the New Jersey Devils on November 11, 1982 at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by B Bennett/Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

“It’s a gut feel something that I really believe is right. I love the game, I love to play,” said Wayne. “Whether it’s now next year or 20 years from now, I’m always gonna miss the National Hockey League, and the game of Hockey,” said the four-time Stanley Cup winner. He also said everything he owed everything to the NHL and the sport.

“I loved it. And thank you,” said Wayne at the end of his speech. Two days later, on April 18, The New York Rangers Played against The Pittsburgh Penguins. However, the Ranger lost the match after conceding two goals. Wayne assisted the only goal the Rangers scored.

Tampering with the lyrics of the national anthem of any country would spark an international incident. However, an exception was made for the Ice Hockey legend before his final match began. Singer Bryan Adams changed the closing line of Canada’s national anthem. Instead of singing, “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.” Bryan sang“We’re going to miss you, Wayne Gretzky.”

A million dollars to think?

During an interview with Graham Bensinger, Gretzky revealed an astonishing fact. “I think it was the day before your final game. The Rangers owner delivers you a check for a million dollars… Just to consider playing another year?” Graham asked Gretzky. Gretzky said the Rangers’ owner James L. Dolan offered him the money, no strings attached.


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While Gretzky could’ve taken the money, he didn’t because Gretzky had already decided. There was no room for second-guessing. 


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Gretzky’s emotional tribute moved many fans to tears. Over two decades later, no one has come close to matching Gretzky on the field. 



Sagnik Bagchi

424 articles

Sagnik Bagchi is a US Sports writer for EssentiallySports. He has completed his Bachelor's and Master's in English Literature from the University of Calcutta. He has experience working as a freelance MMA writer for Sportskeeda.

Edited By: Vineet Nandwana