Rare Photos of Wayne Gretzky

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Photo: David E. Klutho/SI

The Great One

15 years ago, on April 18, 1999, Wayne Gretzky played his final game in the NHL, a 2-1 overtime loss to the Penguins at Madison Square Garden.

The beauty of Wayne Gretzky is for all the ethereal magic he brought to the rink -- that dandy curl at the blue line, his private games of hide-and-go-seek behind the net -- he presented something tangible. Beyond soft-focus memories, he left us numbers: 894 NHL goals; 2,857 points; four 200-plus point seasons; 61 NHL records. He was not merely the best hockey player. He was the most quantifiable. He retired in 1999. 15 years later, he remains hockey's most recognizable figure, suspending time as he once suspended disbelief. Imagine if Joe Montana were still America's quarterback. Of all the athletes who once took center stage -- and routinely took our breath away -- only Michael Jordan continues to cast a shadow as long as Gretzky's. The company is not elite. It's Elysian. -- Michael Farber

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