entered the NHL in 1979 as a phenom and set the standard for young stars (page
50). He retired two decades—and 12 SI covers—later as the Great One, a
nine-time league MVP and the NHL's alltime leading scorer. Now coaching the
Phoenix Coyotes, Gretzky, 45, talked with SI's Arash Markazi about what eight
key covers meant to him.
> 1981 (OCT.
I remember this picture so well. The photographer [ Paul Kennedy] wanted me to
keep flipping the puck so he could capture the Oilers logo on the puck
perfectly. I told him I wasn't sure I could do it, but I think he got it in the
first couple of takes. You can see I'm pretty happy. The writer [ E.M. Swift]
had done my first story in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED three years before, but I never
thought I would get to be on the cover.
> 1982 (DEC.
A great honor. I think SI's Sportsman of the Year is the hardest award to win
in sports. When the picture was taken I was in the middle of what would be a
30-game point streak, so I didn't want to cut my hair. My hair was so long it
was going in my eyes, and I remember lying on a blanket they'd put on the ice
and pushing the hair from my eyes after each shot. I guess the picture turned
out nice with my reflection on the ice.
> 1988 (MAY
This is my favorite cover. I was playing great, and we beat Boston in the
finals. To win the Cup that year meant so much. I also love this cover because
I remember being honored that I was on the same cover as Larry Bird. I loved
watching him play and have always admired him. Watching him go from being a
player to a coach was an inspiration for me to get into coaching.
> 1988 (AUG.
This is a great cover because I had so much fun with Magic Johnson. When I came
to L.A. [in a trade that sent two players, three draft picks and $15 million to
the Oilers], Magic was one of the first guys to welcome me, and he was really
good to me. It was Magic's people who came up with the idea and said let's
promote both the Lakers and the Kings, and wanted us to do this together.
> 1989 (DEC.
It was special. I was so young then , but I'm a big sports fan and being
included in anything with Magic and [ 49ers quarterback] Joe Montana is an
honor. [The cover hailed the three for dominating their respective sports
throughout the 1980s.] Now that I know both of those guys, they are even nicer
than anyone would think. They're just as great off the court or the field as
they are on it, so it makes the honor that much greater.
> 1996 (MARCH
This was a bad time for me because I got traded. [The Kings sent Gretzky to the
Blues for three players and two draft picks.] So I'm not a big fan of this
cover. That was one of the hardest times in my career, to leave Los Angeles and
go to St. Louis. [ Gretzky played just 18 regular-season and 13 playoff games
with the Blues before signing with the Rangers as a free agent.]
> 1996 (OCT.
Being with Mark Messier again made this fun. No one thought I'd go to New York,
least of all me, and when SI asked us to do this, we jumped at it. We had
practice and a luncheon and then we drove over and did the shoot on a sidewalk,
near a fence. It was very cool. I knew I'd like New York, but I didn't know I'd
love it as much as I did. I had the greatest three years of my life there.
> 1999 (APRIL
My retirement was a bitter-happy time. I was disappointed that [my career] had
to end, but the way the people in New York, the Rangers, my friends and family
gave me a wonderful four or five days at the end was amazing. I got to go up
and play my last game in Canada in Ottawa and then play my last game at the
Garden and say goodbye. It was a special time. I didn't expect to be on the
cover of SI, but to be on the cover again, one last time, was nice.
To see every
cover in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED history go to SI.com/covers.