Wayne Gretzky Becomes First Canadian to be Named AP Male Athlete of the Year
In 1982, Gretzky became the first hockey player and first Canadian to be named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. He was also named Sports Illustrated Magazine's 1982 "Sportsman of the Year."
That year, Gretzky became the first hockey player and first Canadian to be named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. He was also named 1982 "Sportsman of the Year" by Sports Illustrated.
Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers, 1981-82
Choosing between Wayne Gretzky's best seasons is like choosing between Jessica Alba and Jessica Biel: There isn't a wrong answer. Still, in a decade in which he dominated, no performance exudes greatness as much as his 1981-82 season. A 20-year-old Gretzky scored 92 goals that season, shattering the previous mark of 76 set by Phil Esposito. He hit the 50-goal mark in just 39 games, capped by a five-goal performance against the Flyers in Game 39. With 120 assists, Gretzky's 212 points set another record (one he would eclipse by three in 1985-86). Gretzky won the scoring title by 65 points, leaving super sniper and runner-up Mike Bossy in his dust.
Gretzky grabbed all sorts of postseason hardware (Hart, Pearson, Art Ross), but it was Gretzky's ability with grace and style to bring the game of hockey to the masses that stands out from the 1981-82 season. In the early 1980s, specifically this season, while the Islanders were winning Stanley Cups, Gretzky started to transcend his icy domain by grabbing international acclaim as the first hockey player and first Canadian to be named The Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. He was also named Sports Illustrated's 1982 "Sportsman of the Year." Starting in 1981-82, Gretzky truly elevated the sport in a way no one had ever done before.