The Great One delivers a personal history of the National Hockey League.
Many professional athletes live a charmed existence blithely unaware of the histories of the games they play, but there are those who admire and respect that which came before them. Hockey Hall of Famer Gretzky (99: My Life in Pictures, 1999, etc.), arguably the best player ever, is among those latter athletes, venerating the history of the game he played and loves. “One of the truly amazing things about coming into the NHL as a rookie,” he writes, “is that you are pretty much guaranteed to find yourself in the dressing room with, or lining up against, a guy you grew up idolizing. For me, that was Gordie Howe.” In the process of becoming a legend of the NHL, Gretzky wore number 99, which he chose in honor of the great Howe, who wore number 9 in forging his own legend and who in many ways seems to be the inspiration for this book, which provides a more-than-serviceable history of the (not coincidentally) 99-year history of the NHL and its players. Gretzky wrote the book with Day (co-author, with Marty McSorley: Hellbent: An Autobiography, 2016, etc.)—who has also co-authored books by hockey players Theo Fleury and Ron MacLean—and while the voice and admiration for the sport are inevitably Gretzky’s, the readable narrative is largely due to her. Gretzky’s sense of his sport’s history rings clearly throughout these pages, as if he is the tour guide of a museum in which he also has created some of the best art. Throughout, he modestly intertwines his own story of his love for hockey, which began early on in his life, with the larger narrative of the history of the NHL.
Not a complete history of the NHL, but this enjoyable book provides an overview that will educate longtime fans and relative newcomers alike.