He’s the NHL’s all-time scoring leader, four-time Stanley Cup champion, and he starred in a cartoon where he fought crime with Michael Jordan. Wayne Gretzky is also the author of 99: Stories of the Game. In his book, Gretzky shares stories of his time in the NHL, as well as the stories of other greats of the game. Gretzky’s book reveals that respect, passion, and unity are what it means to be Canadian.

Wayne Gretzky demonstrated all three of these qualities on and off the ice. As a child, it was Gretzky’s dream to play professional hockey, but he didn’t just let it remain a dream. Gretzky constantly practiced, watched, and thought about hockey. His passion for the game allowed his dream to become reality, which continues to inspire Canadians who also share a passion for the game. His success was driven by his passion for perseverance. Gretzky said “If I had three points, I wanted four. I always played full throttle.”. It’s difficult to constantly work your hardest every day if you don’t have the passion that Gretzky had.  Gretzky’s passion got him to the NHL, but his respect for his opponents and the game is what kept him there. With Gretzky being so good, the only way the opposition knew how to defend him was to give him cheap shots and body checks in an attempt to injure or slow him down. To any normal player, this would get frustrating and throw them off their game. But not Gretzky. Gretzky respected the physical tactics used by the other teams and took it as a challenge to improve himself. It’s difficult to be constantly knocked down by guys double your size and keep getting back up. And not only to get back up, but to still respect the guy who knocked you down. This is what separated him from other superstars. This is what made him a role model to every hockey player. But to Gretzky, it was never just about himself. Gretzky was the ultimate team player, in hockey and in life. You don’t get the most assists in NHL history by only caring about yourself. Gretzky showed he cared for his mentor, Gordie Howe, when he called him the greatest even though all the numbers show that Gretzky was the better player. Gretzky also cared deeply about his family. When deciding on a team to sign with, Gretzky made sure to include his family on every decision. The hockey team was just as important as the school system for Gretzky and his family. He valued unity over individuality.

These qualities that Gretzky demonstrated are all part of Canada’s identity. Canadians are viewed as respectful and kind, it’s one of our most popular stereotypes. We’re seen as being passionate about things such as social justice and sports. Canadians are also seen as being unified under the Canadian flag and the values it symbolizes, the same for which cannot be said about many other countries. One of the main reasons why Canada is seen as having these qualities is because Wayne Gretzky, one of the most famous and influential Canadians ever, demonstrated all three of them. Through 99: Stories of the Game, Wayne Gretzky shows how he influenced the positive Canadian Identity. A positive identity that not many countries are lucky enough to have.