I'm not the worlds biggest hockey fan but wanted to learn more about Gretzky and has legend. This book is informative and entreating from start to finish. You can of course tell it's written by his friend, but to be fair very few people have much negative to say about the man and I wasn't looking for that. I read this in a couple of days and enjoyed it all.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
THE GREATER PLAYER-EVER TO GRACE THE GAME!15 Nov. 2013
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A decade after his retirement in 1999, he still holds the highest Q Score of any hockey player. No hockey name is more recognizable than his. Yet, when he was a star-blazer at home and he was not good enough for the world. And when he was a star in the world, he had supposedly turned his back on his roots. It is difficult to sum up in a short review what Wayne Gretzky is to Canada, and what Canada means to him.
What is beyond the point of debate is the fact that Wayne Gretzky is holder of the Order of Canada, as well as being the holder of more hockey records than anyone in the world, even 14 years after leaving the game. He played his last NHL game in Canada wearing the colors of New York Rangers the night of April 15, 1999, with the sell-out crowd chanting, “One more year, one more year.” And he was 38, an old man by the game’s standard.
Wayne Gretzky is different things to different people. To some he is the game’s greatest player and ambassador, but to some he is the worst thing possible to happen to the game. When a star is born, there’s bound to be star-gazers ready to pounce. And stars do not always shine. Stars do fade, and Gretzky is no exception.
99: Gretzky: His Game, His Story by Al Strachan, a former Globe and Mail sportswriter, with forward by Roy MacGregor, is a fitting tribute to a man whose individual skill and brilliance forced rule changes leading to the introduction of neutral-zone trap. Though not an official biography, 99: Gretzky: His Game, His Story is published with Wayne Gretzky’s approval and written with his cooperation. And what more can Gretzky ask when the biographer put him on the highest pedestal by unequivocally stating: “More than a decade after Wayne Gretzky’s 1999 retirement as an active player, there is still a gaping hole in hockey.”
It is a must-read biography for all fans of the game, especially fans of Gretzky.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is why friends shouldn't be biographers2 Oct. 2014
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Let me first make two things clear. I think Wayne Gretzky is without doubt the greatest hockey player ever and exceptionally nice and modest guy for a superstar athlete. Al Strachan is right about both of these things and although he goes overboard in repeating them (they're on both the first and last pages of the book, and seem to be on half the others), I see no reason to disagree with either of those points.
Having said that, a biography is supposed to objective and even if you admire your subject a great deal as an athlete and as a person, you should at least make some sort of effort to present him in an objective manner. Strachan is Gretzky's friend and clearly afraid of putting in even a single little thing suggesting that Gretzky might have not always been perfect. Here are some examples:
The Stanley Cup triumphs of Edmonton are presented almost exclusively as Gretzky's successes. Conveniently, there is not a single mention of the 90 Cup the Oilers won without Gretzky. Everybody knows that was a great team that could have won cups without Gretzky. They did exactly that just in the second season after trading Gretzky. A proper analysis of the team would have taken some of the limelight off of Gretzky, but now it all comes across as juvenile hero-worship. Nobody is questioning that Gretzky was the most important player in that great Edmonton team. But leaving out their Cup success without Gretzky is just intellectually dishonest. If you didn't know your hockey history, you'd get the image that Oilers were nothing after Gretzky.
Gretzky's high stick on Gilmour in the conference final against Toronto in 1993 is downplayed. Many times it is mentioned that nobody can tell what would have happened if that call was made. Ok, fine, but why is the decision to leave Gretzky out of the Nagano shoot-out given as the reason Canada went out? It was a surprising decision, but the fact is that by that time Gretzky was a 20-goal scorer who hardly ever scored on breakaways. You could also view the decision as the kind of irreverent coaching that is applauded elsewhere in the book. But most of all, you definitely cannot assume that Gretzky would have scored and that decided Canada's fate. The whole Nagano debacle is presented as an anti-Gretzky conspiracy. For all his supposed greatness in Nagano, he had a total of four assists in six games. He was just not the player he once was in 1998 and Strachan should have acknowledged that.
Gretzky's role in Canada's Olympic triumph in 2002 is greatly exaggerated, while that in the disaster of 2006 is downplayed. Gretzky's speech of 2002 is presented as a turning point. Ok, it was a fine piece of leadership, helping create an us against them mentality. It was also rather pathetic whining. But in any case, you don't win tournaments by speeches. You never hear Strachan say that Sather won Edmonton cups. Well Gretzky didn't win that gold medal for Canada. Sakic, Iginla and co. won it. Gretzky's role was only marginal. Curiously, that's how Strachan sees Gretzky's role in the Torino disaster. Canada was shut out in three straight games, but there was evidently no reason at all to question Gretzky's team selection. Well, you can't have it both ways. Either Gretzky was central to both the 2002 success and the 2006 failure, or he was marginal in both events.
Gretzky's badly failed coaching career in Phoenix is dismissed in couple of pages, with the conclusion that since the Coyotes were a bad team with no superstars, nobody could have done better than the four straight seasons out of playoffs. Hmmm, I seem to remember them making the playoffs three years in a row immediately after Gretzky was replaced. And with no superstars. I seriously can't understand that kind of writing, unless Strachan was simply afraid to hurt his friend's feelings. There is just no denying that his spell as an NHL coach was terrible. It doesn't take anything away from his wonderful career as a player. But ignoring it makes the book unfit for a biography.
Even Gretzky's remark that the Devils are a "Mickey Mouse organization" is presented in positive light, reminding that everybody forgot that he was right in his assessment. Excuse me? Was the organization run by Micke Mouse or how was he right? You just don't put down another organization like that and there is simply no denying that Gretzky made a rare error of judgment there. He is human, after all, no matter what Strachan would make you believe.
In conclusion, the book is just page after page of praise for Gretzky, either ignoring or twisting around every occasion on which the 99's actions weren't absolutely perfect. It gets tiring to read. Added to the fact that there's almost no new information for hockey fans, this is a totally unnecessary book. Too bad, because now we won't see a proper Gretzky biography in years.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This book is ridiculous....27 Dec. 2013
Andrew C Cahalane
- Published on Amazon.com
I'm a big Gretzky fan. And agree that he's amongst the very best. Certainly the best I have ever seen play. That said, this book is pretty absurd. The author is basically vomitting superlatives all over every page. It's like a high school kid writing a book about his or her first crush. IMO, it's over the top and silly...I was hoping for a book with some more substance.
Cotton Candy6 Feb. 2015
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Al Strachan’s book is a nice biography of Wayne Gretzky’s achievements in hockey. He touches briefly on all aspects of Gretzky’s career and gives you just enough insight to wet your appetite before moving on to his next topic. Unfortunately, the book as a whole was like eating cotton candy: sweet and tasty but not filling.
Strachan, who is a hockey journalist and a good friend of Gretzky, certainly provided some glimpses under the curtain (or under the ice if you will), but for the most part it is just a regurgitation of Wayne’s many achievements and almost reads like a lifetime achievement award video. The information skips around, touches on elements and then moves on with little additional analysis or substantive counter points of view.
After Gretzky’s short time in St. Louis (that debacle was an interesting), Strachan chooses to focus more on Wayne’s involvement with the World Cup and Olympics (interesting and deserving of discussion) ignoring his time in New York. As a Ranger fan I was looking forward to some glimpses into this tenure of his career. The book’s only Ranger focus was on his last game and when he decided to retire.
Strachan’s close relationship with Gretzky also made the read slightly tedious with his constant praise and biased view. I am surprised the title of the book wasn’t “Gretzky: A March Towards Sainthood”. Granted, the man was a great player, ambassador, and is seemingly a genuinely decent guy off the ice, but there were too many times when Strachan would blame the failures of other people if Gretzky didn’t achieve “greatness”, or ignore many of the contributions of other people in helping Gretzky when he did achieve “greatness”. I could practically hear Jan from the Brady bunch just screaming “Gretzky, Gretzky, Gretzky” instead of Marsha’s name.
I know it doesn’t seem like it but I did enjoy reading about Gretzky’s contribution to hockey, his many individual accomplishments, and his passion to help spread the love of the game. However, I would have liked a more objective view with more insight from other players, coaches, and NHL personnel to give a more rounded perspective of certain times during his career.
Great player, great man13 Feb. 2015
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I knew almost nothing about Gretzky before reading this book. Sure, I knew what kind of hockey player he was, but not what kind of man. I am a huge hockey fan and I cannot root for players that I cannot respect or admire. So many of them are rude to the media or go out drinking and pull stupid stuff. They don't seem to appreciate that they get paid millions to play a game that they love. Gretzky never did any of that. Sometimes he gets a bad rep just because of how famous he is or how the media sometimes likes to stir up drama. That's what I love about this book. The stories that are told show Gretzky as a great man. It's not just the writers opinion, there are stories and quotes from some of the biggest names in hockey. He had amazing relationships with certain GMs and owners and so many other guys around the league. One of the few people that have a problem with him is Bettman and that means he's doing something right.