During his hockey career, Wayne Gretzky scored points like he couldn't wait. Now in retirement, he didn't have to wait long to make the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Just two months after leaving the game, Gretzky was voted Wednesday into the Hall of Fame, which waived the standard three-year waiting period.Joining Gretzky were former referee Andy Van Hellemond, and Ian (Scotty) Morrison in the builder category. The three will be officially inducted on Nov. 22 in Toronto.
"It's obviously overwhelming," Gretzky said, "it was a wonderful phone call."
Gretzky's selection was no surprise. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman retired his famous number 99 after his last game with the New York Rangers. Not long after, the Hall of Fame's selection committee voted to waive the usual waiting period in Gretzky's case.
Still, Gretzky had some doubts.
"Absolutely, it was a relief," the greatest player in hockey history said. "Stranger things have happened."
Gretzky is the 10th player in NHL history allowed to bypass the waiting process for the Hall.
The other players who didn't have to wait the required three years: Dit Clapper (1947), Maurice Richard (1961), Ted Lindsay (1966), Red Kelly (1969), Terry Sawchuck (1971), Jean Beliveau (1972), Gordie Howe (1972), Bobby Orr (1979) and Mario Lemieux (1996).
Gretzky, speaking at a conference call with the media, said he had fond memories of the hall as a boy. Gretzky lived in Brantford, Ontario, not far from the Hall in Toronto when it was on the Canadian National Exhibition grounds.
"I used to stare for hours," Gretzky said. "I never had enough of it. I never thought I'd be a part of it. I'm not sure too many kids think they'll be part of the Hall. It was beyond my wildest dreams."
With all his accomplishments, he has been the NHL's Michael Jordan -- an almost mythical figure who fans of all teams admired and packed arenas to see.
In 1,486 games with teams in Edmonton, Los Angeles, St. Louis and New York, Gretzky had 894 goals and 1,963 assists for 2,857 points -- 1,007 more than runner-up Howe scored in his Hall of Fame career.
Gretzky also scored 122 goals in the playoffs and 56 in the old World Hockey Association to give him 1,072 in all, one more than Howe.
Gretzky, who owns 61 NHL records, was a 10-time scoring champion and a nine-time MVP. He also helped the Oilers win four Stanley Cup championships.
"I played with some great teams, great players," Gretzky said. "When you win, you get recognition."
The 1998-99 season in New York was one of frustration for the 38-year-old Gretzky as he struggled through injuries and "feeling more fatigue than I ever felt before."
Van Hellemond was an on-ice official for 25 years in the NHL, officiating in 19 Stanley Cup finals. Morrison was president of the Hockey Hall of Fame from 1986-93 and also served as chairman before his retirement.